Blueberry, Strawberry, And Otherberry

August 5, 2011
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We all have our own set times to approach change in our lives. Whether it is done by self motivation or an idol we hope to fall under the mesmerizing footsteps of. Usually, these times hit at youth. To me, you could either be sucked so deep into the hubris that comes with youth or distance yourself so far that clinging to your own thoughts becomes easy and you stop relating to others completely. I want to talk about the latter, only because I’m afraid I might discover that I land in some categories of the first. I’ve noticed some people, not much older than me, choose to rely so much on individuality that they begin to be oblivious towards others. In their existential ruts, they fear anything could change their routines, everything or anyone in particular that isn’t in the perimeter of their norm, of their repetitive little worlds. Their fear circles around the slightest possibility of a mistake where they might fall and where they would lose their morals. So, they create systems; they label and define the whole lot, put them in piles of things illicit and things allowable. And maybe they even do this unknowingly.
Before I go into another tirade about mankind’s self-induced damnation, I’ll tell you where this came from.
I’ve never been great about leaving for work in an organized manner. I rush out the door, my arms flailing to get onto the road and eat my specially made nutritious breakfast at the same time. There have been times where I‘d charge out of the house without my purse, or my keys, and the most terribly, without my breakfast. I remember what happened the last time I showed up to work without breakfast. My boss had a businessman look to him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with his hair slicked back and always dressed in dress pants, freshly pressed shirt and tie. The day I told him I had forgotten to eat breakfast, he offered to take me to McDonalds since it was within just five feet from our office. I turned the offer down till he insisted. We walked awkwardly across to McDonalds and ordered breakfast. When I mentioned to the cashier that it would be “to go”, my boss shook his head, “No, here is fine.”
You can only imagine how the level of awkwardness increased from there. I sat in silence eating my apple pie, with my boss chatting about the market charts and the inflation of blah blah blah. I had no interest in insurance, so that is where I really began to question myself why I had started working for him in the first place.
The only best thing about my work is the location. It is entirely surrounded by commercial complexes. Everything you could possibly need or want is within five- miles radius. On one of my horrifying adventures of no breakfast, I needed pancakes within a five- mile radius. So, I retreated to Denny’s.
The turn into Denny’s at around 8’oclock A.M. was merely impossible. The oncoming traffic was lined bumper to bumper. People, rushing to get to work on time, would be flinging their cars into Starbucks and breakfast diners. In pursuit of “happiness” they would do just about anything to get to work on time. Though, all I heard was loud honking, screeching of wheels, and only saw the faces of these people, I heard the impatience and worry on their expressions.
I entered Denny’s at my own slow pace, worried I would die if I wasn’t careful into this left turn.
Once I managed to hustle out of my car, I opened the door to Denny’s. It felt like a whole other world there. Even though I do realize it’s just a breakfast diner, it really felt like it was a little escape from the chaotic rush outside. The inside was filled with back to back blonde wood bench seats with deep orange ceramic lamps hanging over each table. Tinkling jazz music played over the speakers and made me want to pee. There weren’t many people sitting in for the morning, many had pickups and were impatiently looking at their ticking watches. Originally, I would’ve done the same, but today I noticed an old man sitting in the farthest corner of the diner. He looked to be in his late 70s, rail thin with pasty white skin and a narrow figure. A mop of curly white hair covered his head and I was real interested in what shampoo he used to keep his curls so defined. Actually, I just needed company while I ate breakfast. I want to clarify that I don’t normally have any meal of the day with complete strangers. I know there’s some precaution about them giving candy that’s supposed to lure me into their cars or something along those lines, but seriously, this guy could barely lift his own hand. I asked to join him and at first, he couldn’t hear me right, so I had to raise the dial on my voice. When he finally heard me right on the third try, he was shocked, but then nodded his head with a smile.
I ordered my pancakes right away and talked to my new friend. His name was John and his story was quite an inspiring one. If I get into it, it would defeat the purpose of what I’m trying to tell you, so I’ll skip to the part where my beautiful pancakes appeared in front of me. By this time, both John and I were comfortable enough with each other and ate in silence. It wasn’t long until I complained about my pancakes.
“These have no taste.” I told him
“Put some more butter on them.”
“I have like five stacks of butter already.” I pointed out.
“What? I can’t hear you.”
“I said I have—Never mind…”
I eyed the variety of jams that were placed in front of John. They were all in white plastic and peeled open for only a scoop each. I only recognized blueberry and strawberry, I don’t know what other berries, but there were a whole lot. I don’t know what circles this man ran in, but they were all just scattered around the table. I built up the courage to ask him what they were all for.
“Oh, I love jam!” He responded, perking up. Yep, I thought. The man must be running in some obtuse circles at the least to like that much jam. He noticed my look of disgust and got clever with me, “It gives my pancakes taste.”
“Well, I don’t like jam so much. I’ve never even tried it with pancakes.” I said to him. He told me to try and I refused.
“What if all this jam wasn’t in it’s packet but on your pancake? You wouldn’t have said anything about jam, you would’ve liked the way your pancakes tasted.”
I was in no mood to really think about what belonged on my pancakes and what didn’t but this caught my attention. I watched him gather the jam packets, peel each label back and threw them aside. He lined up the jams, looked up at me and asked me what difference I saw.
“Some people just put the jams on there without looking at the labels, they all have their own good taste, and that’s the fun of it. You never know what delights might come out of the outcome.”
And here is where I was just struck by the enthusiasm of this man. More amazingly, just over jam. From what I knew about him at the time, he could be just like any other elderly, waiting in senior homes for occasional visits from their families or repetitive routines to make their time pass by faster. But this man was here, openly talking to me, a stranger, about his life which was obviously something he was proud of. If I had walked into the diner, and judged this man, regarding his age or whether he was a stranger, I would have walked out of Denny’s without a clue to what I had learned that day.
I understand definitions and rules can be useful for some things such as traffic or languages, but I think it’s a crime to put labels on profound things like life and people. Labeling doesn’t get anyone anywhere; it just distances us all from each other’s perspectives and lives. And we’re closer to each other than we think – we could be worlds apart in interests or stands, age or even religion, but there’s only so far one could go on before they have to rely on someone. Someone who is willing to go out of their way to just understand. And that’s one thing I think will create a better world.
Back to my pancakes.
John had splattered my pancake with a random jam of his choice. It was a dark color, I couldn’t make out if it was grape or some other mysterious jam I didn’t know existed in this world. I did as he said, and tasted this jam covered pancake.
It was a foreign taste, different. I liked it. Hallelujah, my pancakes had taste and it wasn’t as bad as I was assuming it to be. I was so glad John had actually found me a way into to delicious pancakes. I asked him what flavor jam it was, to test his intellect on jams that he claimed he knew so well. He took my challenge and studied my pancake. After awhile, he responded: Blueberry.
“Oh good.” I said, “I’m allergic to blueberries.”

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