Do you ever get the feeling that you just want to tell someone to lie down before they hurt themselves? You know those times when the question being asked is so ridiculous you don’t even want to waste your breath answering it? Well I feel like that pretty much whenever I work at the Paella stall on a weekly basis. Now don’t get me wrong, I have my dumb moments just like everyone else, but there should be limit to the amount of these moments you can have in one conversation.
Let me start from the beginning shall I? Paella, for those of you who don’t know, is a Spanish rice dish, I repeat Spanish RICE dish. Now take a wild guess what the main ingredient is over here (trust me, I’ve been asked if I was serving pasta before). We have two kinds of Paella – chicken and seafood. The chicken has, wait for it… chicken in it and the seafood consists of prawns, mussels and calamari. The prawns and mussels are still in their shells and each Paella is prepared in a huge pan, so visibility is pretty clear. In addition to all of this, we have big signs also known as menu boards, explaining in detail what the difference is between the two dishes and what each one contains. It really shouldn’t be hard to see which is which, or so one would think.
So there I am, it’s a typical Saturday afternoon and the market is buzzing with patrons. A lady comes up to me and looks at the food in front of me. I smile, greet her and ask if I can help. She smiles back, looks at the menu board, turns back to me and says: “What kind of Paella do you have?” It is still early in the day so I still have a sense of humor. I smile and politely tell her that we have chicken and seafood, pointing to each pan as I mention the type. “OK.” She says as she continues looking at the food. “So what is the difference?” And so my sense of humor goes down one notch.
Another patron points to the menu board, which is facing away from me and says: “I’ll have one of those please.”
“Sure sir, which one would that be?”
“Yes sir, but which kind would you like?”
“That one.” He says pointing to the board.
“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t see which one you are pointing to as the board is not facing my way.”
“Well surely you should know your menu board.”
It’s at this point where I’m tempted to throw rice at the guy. Obviously I know the menu board there are only two things on it, but how am I supposed to know which one you want when all you do is point to the board? Whooossaaaahhhh….
Oh and you simply have to love those conversations where you find yourself talking in circles.
“So what is this then?”
“It’s Paella ma’am.”
“Paella… what is that?”
“It’s a Spanish rice dish.”
“So this is rice?”
“What is that at the back?”
“That is where we cook, so it is the beginning of these two I have in front of me.”
“It looks like chicken to me.”
“Yes, that is going to be a chicken paella.”
“OK, I’ll have some chicken then.”
I start to dish up when I get stopped.
“No, I don’t want that, I want the chicken.”
“This is the chicken Paella ma’am.”
“No, but I don’t want rice.”
“I’m sorry, but Paella is a rice dish, we don’t just serve the chicken on its own.”
“But I don’t want the rice.”
“OK, I’m sorry I can’t help you then.”
“But what about the chicken at the back? Why can’t I have that?”
I can carry on, but you can pretty much figure out how the rest of this conversation went.
There are those moments though when someone comes along and you see the light bulb.
“Ah so you have chicken and seafood…”
“Yes we do.” Finally!
“OK, I’ll go for the chicken then.” He says, pointing to the seafood.
“Um, that’s the seafood.”
“Really? Are you sure?”
Because I wouldn’t know the difference…
One of my favorite incidents happened at that point in the day where I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. A guy comes over, looks at the board, looks at the food, looks at the board, looks at the food. I think I can see steam coming out of his mind as he’s trying to match the pans with the names. Finally he gives up and asks me which is which. I decide that I’m in the mood for some fun so I tell him to take a guess. He seems eager with this little game and takes one more look at the pans and the boards, clicks his fingers and then points to the seafood paella and says: “That is chicken.”
The look on the guy’s face was so proud that I couldn’t be blunt and tell him no so I decide to give him a second chance.
“Why don’t you try again?” I say.
Eyes to the board, to the pan, the board, the pan. Again, that same excited look, the same clicking of the fingers and unfortunately, the same wrong answer. It was not his finest moment.
The thing that gets me the most is that these are not isolated cases. In fact, it is pretty much a guarantee that it will happen every week and definitely more than once. Like I said, I get my fair share of brain farts just like everyone else but come on, this is just ridiculous.
Well at least work is never boring so I guess I can’t complain too much.