Posted originally in May 2010.
Oh my gosh, I almost experienced ACTUAL death by chocolate! You hear about it, but you don’t think it’s true. And then, it happens to you.
So, my girlfriend and I get together once a week or so and have movie nights. We pick completely random movies at least one of us hasn’t seen and we take turns hosting. It’s all very low key and relaxing: the host provides dinner (usually Chinese) and the guest provides dessert and booze.
So it’s my turn to go to her house and I am having a bad week. Like just record-breaking blahs. And while nothing cures the blahs like a good old-fashioned movie night, the idea of getting in the car and getting there just exhausts. So adding extra stops for booze and dessert? Forget it. So there’s a liquor store nearby that I know keeps champagne cold and I am in a cheap champagne mood.
Next door is a little Mexican gas station/taco stand. Yup, you read that right. In the middle of the country…in a gas station. Anyway, I get the lightbulb that I can just go ahead and buy the “dessert” right there in the gas station. So I go in looking for a bag of cookies. I’ll say this: bless my friend for loving cheap cookies and even cheaper booze. I’ve cooked for her and she’s graciously eaten it all, but I swear nothing makes the girl happier than a bag of Milanos and that’s why we’re friends.
Only this isn’t exactly that kind of gas station/taco stand, know what I mean? They’re selection isn’t exactly vast. But for some reason in my exhaustion, I find this funny and so end up purchasing the rather festive-looking cookie box you see here. Cute, right? She’s making a little Russian dish for me so I figure I’ll bring her a little Spanish dish of my own.
So I pay and leave and go get my champagne. I’ve parked between the liquor store and the gas station/taco stand, so about 20 feet from both. I am in my car, about to shut the door when I hear this little voice call out to me in a thick Mexican accent “hellooooo?” So I turn around and a Mexican man wearing an apron is waving at me. But he’s not moving off the sidewalk by the store. He’s just like yelling to me, which kind of weirds me out.
I start to stress a little because this is a small parking lot and it’s empty. And also, irrationally, I’m freaked out about speaking Spanish. I hate when I do this! The thing is: I know Spanish. And I know in situations like this, where he’s gearing up for a big conversation, I could probably speak Spanish and cut through it all much quicker.
Instead, I panic. I do this totally circular self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to my fluency in Spanish. I am, in fact, half Puerto Rican. And also, in fact, am fluent in Spanish. But you get me around native speakers and I just melt into my little Irish girl half. I don’t know what it is. Well, that’s not true, I do. I am self-conscious about sounding stupid so I won’t speak it in front of native speakers. Which means I don’t speak it often. Which means when I DO have to speak it, it sounds awkward and I stutter and then that makes me not want to speak it in front of native speakers.
Ok, so all of this is going through my mind as I stare blankly at him. So he asks “how much did you pay for those cookies?”
So, remember I’m tired, right? Bad week? A million things are going through my mind like “did I overpay? Underpay? Is he going to tell me I got ripped off? Does he have some sort of cheap cookie connection he wants to introduce me to?
Side note: this is why I can’t do yoga anymore. My brain REFUSES to slow down and make sense. And it for sure won’t stop to concentrate on my breathing. The classes were TORTURE for me. The whole time, my mind would be going a mile a minute: “that girl shouldn’t wear such short shorts; I hope nobody is behind me, if they’re behind me they’ll see how fat my ass is; I wonder what would happen if I fell over right now? Would they laugh or are they too zen for that? Because I would laugh, but I also can’t do a perfect tree pose without falling over, so they’re all better than me.” And then the worst part is the end when you’re just supposed to lay there and like reflect on the beauty of a dewdrop on the water or whatever? Yeah, then I go into overdrive: “Okay, so just turn off, brain. We won’t think about anything. Is thinking about not thinking about something thinking about it? I should stop. The person next to me looks very serene. Crap! I’m supposed to have my eyes closed. But so is the instructor so if she calls me out, then she’s just a phony, right?” And then all of a sudden it’s like “Namaste” and I feel totally gypped.
Anyway, so I told the man I paid $3.99 for the cookies. And he says “too much, they’re really bad, you should get your money back.” And I’m like, wow, there are lots of things in life I don’t like, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve actually stood outside to persuade someone not to do it. I mean that’s ballsy! So I shout back “well, I don’t mind giving them a try” because I can’t imagine going back in and explaining to the man behind the counter that the other dude who sells tacos told me these cookies sucked and could you please return my $3.99, thank you? It’s just too awkward.
So I see him turn and look at someone, who I later realize is the dude who sold me the cookies, and then he says “they’re old!” And again, stupid brain goes, old, like old school? And I start thinking about pop rocks and other candy I haven’t seen in awhile and maybe he’s just letting me know that his generation is smarter about these things and therefore knows that they’re total crap cookies.
And he’s getting more and more riled up. And I’m getting more and more weirded out because, dude, no matter what you say, I’m not getting out of my car to return the cookies. The whole reason I got them at your gas station/taco stand was because I was too lazy to go down the street to the multiple grocery stores or gas stations I could encounter that would have had Milanos instead of your, apparently, crap cookies.
And for some reason this like rebellious teenager in me comes out and I’m thinking: “well, now I will try the damn cookies and I will love them. Who tells me not to like cookies?” The gall! And again while I am doing this he is frantically whispering to the dude who sold me the cookies and finally as I am putting my seat belt on yells “expired! They expired! It would be better for you to return.”
And now I’m just embarrassed. And guilty because maybe if I had just spoken Spanish to the guy we would have been on the same page. Only I don’t know the Spanish word for expired. Crap, my fluency is fading.
So I’m feeling bad in general because I was all “I should speak English, it’s better” and made him struggle to explain to me the cookies I purchased were bad. And also feeling bad because first I’ve pegged this guy as some sort of back-alley cookie connection, then as some sort of anti-cookie crank, when in reality all he’s doing is trying not to poison me. I’m too embarrassed to reply so I just wave and take off.
I stop a ways down the road. And sure as hell: expired June 2009. Think about that. Think about the shelf life of a crappy generic cookie. I think that cookie could have been made while I still had braces on!
But don’t think for a second I wasn’t still tempted to try the cookies. Instead, $3.99 down the tubes.