Opinion

The Casual Observer: The Taste of Greatness


When it comes to observing human beings in the wild there are some great choices. It’s always fun to catch someone singing along to the radio in a stopped car. And I find it surprising some of the intimate detail about people’s lives I’ve overheard standing in line and the grocery store.
But most people know that few locales are better than a bar.
I’m not talking about the sanitized, modern “brew pub” where children are allowed to roam freely and beer tasters are served on paddles.
No, I’m talking about a good old-fashioned bar with antlers on the walls, pin-ball machines that don’t work, and a sign that always says ‘Closed’ even during business hours.
Case in point: while I was nursing a beer at a nearby watering hole recently, the strangest, most fascinating scene unfolded, something straight out of a Tom Waits song.
The bartender was having an animated discussion with two patrons over the flavor of a particular menu item. While the two gentlemen apparently loved the item, the bartender was not a fan and was making her case with the fervor of a big-oil lobbyist.
“It has no flavor, none” she said adamantly, slapping the bar with her palm. “I swear, you lick the surface of this bar and you’ll get more flavor.” (You can probably see where this is going, but I’ll soldier on, nonetheless)
The two patrons – apparent defenders of the item in question – began questioning the veracity of her bold statement.
After much back-and-forth, it was decided that a taste test was in order. The two patrons would lick the bar and compare it to the flavor of their beloved food.
Interest from around the bar began to percolate and dares and double-dares were exchanged. It was not unlike the scene in “Christmas Story” when the kids are goading one another into licking the frozen flag pole.
At this point, we were done with our drinks and Janell was nodding subtly towards the door, her eyes a little panicked. But I wasn’t about to leave now, not with the culinary experiment of the century right in front of me. I wished Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places” would suddenly come on the speakers over the bar but it was “Mr. Roboto” by Styx.
I won’t get into details because I’m still processing most of them. Suffice it to say the two patrons were stand-up guys (or fall-down guys depending on the amount of salmonella they ingested) and each took a surprisingly lengthy sample.
It turns out the bartender was correct, the surface of the bar was indeed the most flavorful. There was much rejoicing.
No money exchanged hands as this had been done purely to defend the honor of a sandwich. It might be the most fascinating thing I’ve ever witnessed and I hope it gets national attention on one of those cooking shows.
I wanted to stay and see what was next. Maybe they’d take turns randomly dialing some of the phone numbers scribbled above the men’s urinal.
Not having any of it, Janell hustled me out the door looking a little green around the gills.
“You can pick the place next time,” I offered.
“Oh no, not that easy” she said. “You owe me those dance lessons you keep putting off.”



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