On a trip to New York years ago, I decided to to buy a gift for some people back home as a "thank you" for giving me some hotel discount coupons. Back then I had no money for travel, and their generosity was the difference between staying in a nice hotel... or sleeping in a bus station or some grubby hostel.
Finding the perfect gift was difficult because I didn't know them very well. About all I knew was that they hosted fancy dinner parties, liked great wine, and took pity on their daughter's friend who was foolishly flying to New York with little planning and even less budget.
After a couple days of wandering through souvenir shops in-between visits to the Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, The World Trade Center, and all the other obvious tourist spots, I was ready to give up. Showing up at their door with an "I ♥ NY" T-shirt or a crappy picture frame would have been worse than showing up with nothing. I figured I would just buy a nice Hallmark thank-you card and that would be the end of it.
My fancy hotel had a concierge. I had never used one before... but of course I knew what they were for. I watch movies and stuff.
So I sauntered up to the concierge desk and said something like "Hello! I need to buy a hostess gift for a friend. Do you know where I might find something appropriate for a couple who enjoy dinner parties and wine?" The concierge looked at me like I was a grade-A moron and said "Do you have something in mind... like... oh, I don't know... a nice bottle of wine? Turns out that I actually was a grade-A moron, because getting them a bottle of wine had never occurred to me. "Well of course, wine!" I snapped, "I am asking you where I can get it!" Hey, I can be an asshole too, asshole.
And so I was directed to some ridiculously pretentious wine shop.
Where I was told that a cheese and crackers gift basket would be the better gift to travel home with. Which was a nice way of saying "yeah, you can't afford a 'great' bottle of wine in this joint, fella." They had a basket that had been opened because they took something out of it, and the nice lady assisting me offered to re-work it at a discount so nobody would ever know a part was missing. Fifty precious dollars later, I had a nice-looking gift of very expensive cheese with a box of watercress crackers. In a basket. With straw. I took care to keep it cool, and it survived my trip home the following day. I ran it to my friend's parents the next morning. Her mother was thrilled and thanked me profusely for the unexpected cheese windfall. Mission accomplished.
The following week I asked my friend if her parents had a chance to eat the cheese basket I gave them. Turns out they had. I sat waiting for her to beguile me with a magical tale of how the cheese was served with a $500 bottle of wine at an exclusive party attended by movie stars and dignitaries. Instead she told me that they had shredded the stuff and sprinkled it on a casserole or nachos or something.
I must say, I managed to keep my composure quite well.
But how ungrateful! That precious gift of $50 cheese was WASTED! I might as well have given them a box of Ritz crackers and a brick of cheddar! Didn't they know that it was a special cheese that was meant to be savored with a fine wine? I might as well have take a $50 bill and burned it! Of all the nerve!
The Buddhist philosophies I had been studying started to surface.
I gave them the gift freely. They accepted it with gratitude after doing me a favor. They liked it. They were happy I had been so thoughtful. Who am I to tell them how to enjoy their cheese? So they shredded it on a casserole... good for them! I'll bet it was the best damn casserole they had ever eaten! How nice that I got to be a part of such an amazing dining experience!
Discovering that you don't have to be angry all the time... and realizing that what other people choose to do with their cheese is their business... it's a liberating thing.
Which brings me to yesterday when I was told that "tattoos are disrespectful to the bodies that God has given us" and I was so close to saying "Then don't get a fucking tattoo, bitch!" but actually ended up saying "Why do you care what I do with my cheese?" which was confusing to everybody involved, so I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
But not before I noticed she had pierced ears and color highlights in her hair.