As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Of Cheese Sticks, Marinara Saurce, How The Truth Can Get Lost, And The Roots Of Misunderstandings (Or Maybe A Better Title Might Be "A Big, Long, Post About Nothing")

We often hear people say that there is often three sides to every story; and that those are the side that one person tells, the side a second person tells, and the truth.  That's often, of course, the way things work.  Sometimes, though, there's just one truth and if anyone involved is careful enough to recognize what he can know for certain and what he cannot know for certain while the whole truth may not be evident in any given situation, at least what is presented by anyone involved in that situation is accurate and would better be described as "part of the truth", rather than "a different truth".

Not too long ago I had a situation that was nothing, truly nothing.  It would certainly seem not worth mentioning at all; and as far as writing about it goes, it REALLY wouldn't seem worth doing that.

If you see in the title the words, "cheeses sticks and marina sauce" it's pretty clear that the following story is about something pretty insignificant (even "dumb").  If you look at the word, "misunderstandings", you might think the story is about misunderstandings.  That, however, is kind of misleading because the story I'm about to write really isn't so much even a story as it is an example.  On top of that, the term, "misunderstandings", suggests at least a little bit of "a thing" between the people involved.  This wasn't even that because I don't think one third of the people involved even knew that one or two of the others would go away feeling as if the truth (even an insignificant one not worth worrying about or making an issue of) had been lost (although that one-third of the people may had his own feeling that some truth/fact had been overlooked, misunderstood and/or lost).

So, point Number 1 here does go to that thing about how two or three people can come at a situation and view it from two or three different perspectives.

In "general life" I'm kind of proud to be, and work hard at being, a person who doesn't make mountains (or issues) out of molehills.  Life is short.  Brains and mental energy shouldn't be wasted on insignificant little stuff, even stuff that actually does turn into something of misunderstanding (regardless of whether the people involved allow it to or not).

In my "writing life", however, I'm not above turning the tiniest of molehills into a non-story that's really more example than story, mainly by virtue of never having allowed it to turn into even a small story.   (Also, as some of my posts on here may suggest - or out-and-out "scream") - I'm in need of getting away from some of the more serious efforts and just writing something because it's "nothing" (but with a few points thrown into the mix).

So here's the story about the cheese sticks and marinara sauce:

First, I'd say that I never eat fried food like french-fries or mozzarella sticks, but the story I'm about to tell makes it obvious that I do break my no-fried-food policy/preferences at least once in a while.  That's because I generally go out with my sister to do my weekly grocery shipping on one of the weekend days (most often Saturday).  It's not a "fun shopping" kind of trip.  It's a weekly grocery trip with, occasionally, a trip run into CVS and always coffee and/or some version of food to go with the coffee.

I'd say I'm "mostly vegetarian" and have been for most of my adult life, but I can't say that because, depending on the time in my life or the situation, I do break some "complete-vegetarian" rules in some ways at some times.  So technically, I don't think there's really such a thing as someone who IS "mostly vegetarian".   I rely heavily on eggs (but a person can get all egged-out by doing that) and do eat cheese, but not much of it (because I don't want to both for health reasons and reasons of not being all that interested in too many different types of cheese).

So anyway, on the weekend when we go to do our basic grocery shopping we go to a no-frills shopping center that has a Burger King right across the street from it.    By the time we start our shopping/coffee trip on Saturdays I've even been up since the crack of dawn and had breakfast OR skipped it; or else I got up a little later, maybe eaten some small snack instead of breakfast (or else skipped eating) and aimed to hold off long enough to make the trip-out food "lunch".

Paraphrasing the words of the Magic Eight-Ball, all signs generally point to my never wanting cookies or muffins with my coffee and often being all egged out in general.  In the scheme of life but also the scheme of my own rest-of-the-time eating habits, I don't think four cheese sticks and a packet of fries even on most weekends is really a big issue.

I'm not really even a french-fry person at all and most often don't get them with any meal I eat out, but as it happens I do think the BK fries (at least at the store near me) are good enough to bother even considering eating.

It's always my sister who is driving when we go through the drive-though, and it's often she who offers to cover whatever version of lunch we get there.  So, the cheese sticks (while non-exceptional) are edible and do the job of being filling, the french-fries are something I could do without but choose not to just because they taste so good.  (Most often, I'm an "if-it-does-the-job" kind of person when it comes to food.)

So, in all the time (years now, and even before the fries were what they are today and were therefore not worth ordering) that I've been getting those cheese sticks, cheese sticks have "just come with" marinara sauce unless I tell them I don't want it.  While that may be the policy with the sticks, sometimes it gets in the bag.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes the person at the window throws in two.

It's all understandable.  Sometimes more than one person is involved with packing the to-go bag, for example.  It's fine, and I don't even really care a whole lot if I don't get the sauce.  It's just that, given the choice, I do prefer it (mainly because it disguises the taste of the cheese).  (Are you now getting a real feel for how, exactly, dumb an issue this story/non-story is about to unfold?)

Keep in mind that over a period of time it's unlikely that the same employee will be at the window when we go through on any Saturday.   Keep in mind, too, that sometimes my sister also gets whatever she gets and also that when I talk about x number of trips through that drive-through I'm talking about most, but not every, Saturday each month over a period of years.  All kinds of changes-of-hands can go on in a place like BK, not to mention changes-of-hands dealing with the drive-through window on any shift.

In any case, most of these drive-through/cheese-sticks trips that involve my sister and me are a matter of the worker asking something like whether we want any condiments/sauce, at which time there's the opportunity to either say, "just the marinara sauce" or "besides the marinara sauce, could we have 'blah-blah' (whatever it is if we get anything else)".  The marinara sauce generally gets in the bag.  As I said, sometimes a couple of them get thrown in.

A couple of weeks ago when we went through there was no sauce in the bag.  I didn't check before we left and didn't say anything to my sister about it once I discovered that it wasn't.  I didn't care all that much (never do) but did wonder if, maybe, it would be good these days to mention.  Maybe they had new employees or a new policy.  The reason I didn't say anything to my sister (besides my not really caring all that much about it) was that she had covered the order.  I didn't want to turn her doing something nice into something that was less than satisfactory.  I could have something and let her know I didn't care, but the other thing was, I guess, not wanting her to think that my not caring was a) just something I was saying to make her feel better, or b) something other than my not caring (like, for example, not caring because I "don't have the backbone" to speak up, as opposed to my not caring because I don't waste my brain time/energy caring about stupid stuff like marinara sauce on cheese sticks.

While I still don't know if there was a new employee or new policy at BK, I didn't think to wonder if, maybe, the no-sauce thing was a matter of her not putting it in the bag because she asked something like, "Do you want anything else with that?" and my sister's assuming the "anything else" didn't mean "sauce" (or that type of thing).  I wasn't paying attention because I didn't assume there would be no sauce.

So, a couple of points here:

1) What the issue was within BK was something I couldn't know, and didn't really need to.  It was one drive-through visit and - one more time, and I can't emphasize this enough - a matter so minor it really wasn't worth giving too many seconds of thought to.

2) We (people like customers, in this case) don't always know to pay attention to who says what unless/until there's a problem.  Since there hadn't been one I hadn't paid attention to what might have better made clear to me (just me among this "cast of characters") exactly why no sauce was in the bag.

3) While, when it comes down to it, one might realize that these things can happen, and it's really the customer's responsibility (if he wants to make sure his order is what he wants) to check the bag before driving away.  I wasn't driving.  I could have looked.  I didn't care.  That's not the point.  The point is that some little issue went on either with the young woman who packed the order or between her and whatever she asked/said to my sister.  Oversight, new rule, mis-communication.  Something went on that I had nothing to do with.  Then again, really, since it was my order and I wasn't even driving, how much could I blame anyone/anything else for my own not, at least, just looking into a bag with so few items in it?

Live and learn.  Live and don't learn.  Live and try to learn.  Moving onto the fact that I discovered the no-sauce situation too late for it be to convenient to fix.  Further, upon discovery I then actually spent a couple of seconds considering whether or not to mention it to my sister.

My thinking with stuff like little nothing-meals we get out is "there's always tomorrow" (or in this case, next week most likely).  (And if there isn't then no-sauce with my cheese sticks would turn out to have been the least of my problems anyway.)  It's almost impossible to stress, in spite of all my words about this here, how little time I actually spent thinking or caring about the foolish sauce thing.  Still, apparently, in the back of my head somewhere I did learn.  That wouldn't really become apparent, however, until the following visit a couple of weeks (I think) later.

This time my sister was getting whatever she was getting.  Sometimes she doesn't get something there at all and gets her lunch somewhere else.   I suppose, either out of politeness, needless to think a little while while ordering, and/or out of fact that the cheese sticks and fries thing is most often a constant (at least under the drive-through/Saturday-groceries situation), my sister first mentioned my stuff as she replied to the person at the speaker.

First, the employee asked for the order really quickly as we got to the speaker.  Second, saying "cheese sticks and value fries" didn't take long, and saying what she wanted didn't take much long.  There wasn't a lot of time for me to sit there, recall the fact that the last time we did the BK thing I hadn't gotten sauce and to realize that I should probably say something (in case people are now supposed to request the sauce).

At this point she didn't even know there had been an issue the previous week, so I'm guessing she wasn't imagining that I'd suddenly pop up with, "Could you ask for sauce too?".  In the whole speedy process of the order, it was as, or after, my sister was saying what she wanted that I kind of whispered my mention of asking for sauce.  So, as she asked for the sauce immediately asking for her own sandwich, it sounded to me like, maybe, her request for marinara sauce could have been interpreted for asking for sauce on her sandwich.  Since I don't even know what they have for sandwiches these days, but know they sometimes have "Italian-sauce" sandwiches; I kind of panicked (within the context of such a minor matter) a little as I imagined her getting her sandwich with sauce dumped all over it.  ("Surprise!!!!")

It was too late to do anything about that possible misunderstanding, but as we headed toward the pick-up window I commented (and maybe even planted a little bit of worry in her mind) that I hoped they didn't think she meant "sauce on the sandwich".

We both kind of agreed that we weren't going to worry about it at the moment).  (If she had gotten a sauce sandwich I  would have asked her to drive through again, and I'd cover her new sandwich.)  (Again, all this thinking about such a minor thing in such a short time period.)  It was only between the speaker and the window that I remarked to her that the sauce hadn't been in the bag the week before.  While I don't what she was thinking when I had blurted out, "can you ask for sauce" at the speaker, I think I can assume that my remark about the week before had cleared up any question I'd caused to arise in her just before.

At this point (and not that she cared about any of this any more than I did), it wasn't just I who done a little more thinking/wheel-spinning associated with this either of the two weeks' orders of cheese sticks.  At this point, I had turned my "kept-to-myself" history with the marinara sauce into more thought/concern for her than she would have most likely imagined upon first driving up to the speaker.

At this point, something that wasn't new or complicated to either of us or to anyone who works at BK or is familiar with their menu had taken on the feel of something far more complicated.  As we got up to the window, I don't know how much she was actually worried about getting a sauce-sandwich; and even though I knew I could correct things if she did, I, personally, had a certain amount of nervousness about discovering whether or not this particular and potential mis-communication had resulted in the "dire" consequences of a sandwich that wasn't supposed to come with, or have, marinara sauce dumped all over it having turned into a special order (that would take longer, create "a thing" for an employee who didn't know how to deal with such as "special request".

(BK used to have commercials that said, "....special orders don't upset us".  That, though, was about "hold the pickles/hold the lettuce" and not about completely weird requests  )

So, with any damage having already been done as far as my sister's sandwich went, and with my having by then told her that my marinara sauce was missing the week before, when we got to the window (where a young man was that day doing the window duty) as he handed out the little bag my sister doubled-checked about the marinara sauce being in the bag and the man told her/explained to her that marinara sauce always come with cheese sticks.

He meant well.  Maybe he didn't know how often we've done this "cheese-stick thing" over the years.  He had no way to know that it hadn't "just come" with the cheese sticks the week before.  As this friendly, third, character in this second, most recent, in a series of BK/cheese sticks "dramas" not only smiled, acted friendly, and appeared to want to reassure customers that they don't need to ask for marinara sauce with cheese sticks; my sister and I looked at each other and silently agreed that it wasn't worth clarifying to him that there hadn't always been marinara sauce in all bags.

So, who knows where the young woman from the no-sauce day was on this most recent visit.  (Maybe she had quit.  Maybe she had been fired?  I doubt either and don't think either should have necessarily happened.  I just thought it might be kind of funny to throw that in.)   As far as I can assume, the young man from the most recent visit either didn't think anything at all about what had gone on.  What I don't know is if, by any chance, he commented to any fellow employees (particularly if he, or they, know we're "regulars" and have been for so long) about "our" not knowing that sauce comes with the cheese sticks; or even about what he could have seen as my sister's out-of-line double-checking that he had put in the bag what was supposed to "just go with" the food.

I'm going to assume that he didn't give it a second thought and that all seemed well enough to him (which it was as far my sister and I were concerned, because there was sauce in the bag and we didn't really mind being politely told that sauce "always" comes with cheese sticks),   As with so many such situations we both (and most likely the young man if he'd known about it) saw the mild humor in the whole episode (if it can even be called an "episode").

If we had decided to make sure this young man had the complete and accurate truth about the situation we could have been out-and-out, but polite, jerks who just had to make sure he didn't think we were stupid.  OR, we could have been bigger jerks who allowed a nothing thing to turn into a something thing, and maybe even potentially escalate into bad feelings or rudeness.

None of it was anyone near to being worth it.  What we don't know, however, is whether, for example, this employee knew we were "regulars" and assumed he'd forget, maybe either because young or new or a BK employee or whatever other reason we might assume he'd forget.

My point here isn't to try to imagine all kinds of things this young man could have thought up (and most likely didn't), but to just consider the potential for "disconnects" in even the simplest of interactions and then to further consider some of bad information that could be passed from one person to others he knows only as a result of that disconnect, rather than because his perspective is accurate.

I can't stress enough that I've intentionally selected this "truly-nothing" "non-story"  not because I thought it was worth writing this whole, big, post about; but because, in all its nothing-ness, harmless-ness, and mundane-ness it highlights any number of possibilities as far as misunderstandings, misconceptions, and losing the facts/truth go.

So, my sister and I went happily on our way once we'd silently acknowledged the little bit of humor there'd been in the young man's telling us that marinara sauce always just comes with cheese sticks.  It's probably safe to assume the young man at BK went on with his day and shift without thinking much, if anything, about us or the request for sauce.

On the one hand, this young man was perfectly helpful and correct in stating that it is standard for cheese sticks to automatically come with marinara sauce.  One of us could have made an issue out of my not having been given sauce the week before by someone else who works there.  What had gone on the week before with someone else shouldn't have been his worry, and proving his statement "wrong" by dredging up the facts about the previous visit would have been nothing more than having to have the last word, and a word that would have taken some of the air out of balloon.  Why do such a thing to someone who had nothing to do with anything but the order, and marina sauce, of the day?

The real point here is not what he thought about us or whether he would ever have an accurate idea about the whole picture/truth of the situation.  The point is really only that if he didn't have the whole picture and, for some reason, drew some conclusion (and particularly if he shared that incorrect conclusion with someone else).

Since we chose not to be jerks about having to have the last word in such a minor and day-to-day interchange, as far as I can tell (and that's only as far as I can tell, of course) the minute or so of exchange was a friendly one.

As far as I know, my sister's sandwich was not covered in marinara sauce (although, for all I know, it could have been and she may just not have said anything about it).  As I write this it occurs to me that if her sandwich had no sauce on it she may have made it a point to reassure me that it didn't - which now makes wonder if it did and she just said nothing.  Then again, maybe she didn't understand the degree to which I was concerned about being responsible for a peculiar and unwanted load of sauce on here sandwich.  OR, maybe she just hadn't really shared my concern.  OR, maybe she hadn't realized how very confusing it sounded to someone who heard her throw in the request for marinara sauce so immediately following the request for the sandwich.

And all of these things are the kinds of things from which disconnects are made, the roots of misunderstandings and potential misunderstandings can get their start, and the picture and take of the facts-of-the-matter/truth can become lost.

Oh, by the way, as I write this I realize that the little container of marinara sauce that I got with my cheese sticks on that last trip through BK's drive-through is still in the plastic bag I put it in so that it wouldn't get squooshed in the canvas bag I use as a "purse" and make a big sauce-mess in my bag. Not being too thrilled that little sauce containers (etc.) get thrown into the bag on top of things like fries or cheese sticks (that have no covers/wraps on them), I'm always in a hurry to first remove the "extras" and toss them in my purse/bag for a few minutes until I get to them.  

It turned out I was too hot, too hungry, too tired, too busy, or too something-else to be bothered dealing with trying to open a little container of marinara sauce and being careful not to get any of it on me.  So, for one reason and/or another I just ate the four cheese sticks without the sauce (just as I had the week before).

I could take the low road and point out how I cared more about the sauce the week before when I wasn't so hungry, hot, tired, busy, or whatever-else; and how not having sauce for the cheese sticks was a bigger deal the week before than it would have been this most recent.  Or, I could take the high road and say something like, "Isn't it funny how some things sometimes happen."

Instead, I'll just say, "oopsie" and be happy that I've typed this whole, useless, post without my "carpal-tunnel-thing" wrist seeming to notice. 

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