It was a relatively normal day, filled with odd jobs that needed doing: running around town with my father and sister; hanging out in malls while the others shopped. It was one of those mostly insignificant days, quickly forgotten, but for one event.
Just before heading for home – a drive of over an hour from the city down the coast – we stopped for some refreshments; a little something to make the journey more bearable.
I was craving a milkshake, as one sometimes does in these situations. We stopped at a popular fast food joint, a place better known for its chicken (which shall remain unnamed, of course) and I ordered a vanilla shake.
A small one. Because one doesn’t want to go overboard.
It took an eternity to arrive, and it was indeed small. Some might say tiny; minuscule even. I was okay with that (as I said, one must know one’s limits when it comes to milkshakes) but it tasted awfully of strawberry. And that I couldn’t bear.
“Excuse me,” I said to the woman who had served me, “I believe you gave me a strawberry milkshake instead of a vanilla one.”
“Eish*,” said she, reaching for the offensive milkshake.
And then, without missing a beat, she took a long, deep drag on the straw, adding, “It tastes like vanilla to me.” As is normal in these circumstances, she then held it out for me to taste again, to see how wrong I’d been.
I’m not sure what I said – I’m not very good in unusual social situations. I may have coughed; I just don’t remember.
Fortunately, she did bring me another milkshake, which still tasted strangely like strawberry. This time I took it without argument: I remember a good friend giving me sage advice to pick one’s battles, and this was one I knew I would never win.
I just hoped she hadn’t taste-tested it first in the hidden kitchen where mystery milkshakes come to life …
*eish: A common South African word used to express exasperation or disbelief.