Friday, November 14, 2008

Night of the Living Bivalves.

Wednesday night. In the annals of all that I have attempted and done, there is a common theme running through it... Helen don't mix with high society too good. While I wasn't born in a barn, there are certain public rituals and things that are of such a ridiculous nature I can't help but laugh and mock a bit.
Both Bob and myself had been looking forward to an oyster tasting session at Legal Seafoods ever since we found out about it back in September. We'd signed up for it and done a little jig when we found we were off the waiting list, looking forward to what had been billed as a night of learning about the various types of oysters available. As we've both come to view oysters as a rather delicious member of the crustacean family, this seemed the ocean-bound equivalent of a wine class.
We arrived, expectant and excited, to see that they were shuttling everyone in to the bar area. Everyone. Probably 50-60 of us.
In my head I thought it was a holding area until they had the meeting room ready where they were going to sit us down and do a talk about the pluses of each kind of oyster they were offering, and we would get a chance to taste them after these were highlighted.
Not so. We were handed a menu printed on cardstock. There were 2 stations set up for the oysters, and when they were set out there was just a sign put up with the name on it. A brief description outlined their individual flavors on the menucard, but no one took the time to tell us anything.
We took up positions at the bar and I watched as huge queues formed at each of the stations. There was much jostling of elbows and rushes to get there, with people craning their heads and watching carefully to see what people were taking ahead of them.
I know this behavior. I see it in my family whenever we get together and cook and there's anger that someone's eating too much, or fear that there won't be enough left for them. An entire room of adults switched over to survival mode in the matter of 2 minutes, and it was probably one of the most sad and disgusting things I've seen in a while.
Worst offenders were the elderly, who were aggressive to get to the front of the line. Any time a waiter came out with hors d'oeuvres he got perhaps 5 feet in to the room before he was swamped by people scrabbling to get a piece before anybody else could take it. Like seagulls going after French fries. Or that scene in the Mummy where the bugs run over the guard and devour him, leaving his bones to drop to the temple floor.
We got a decent share in the oysters, and one of each item that went around on the trays. It was all delicious, and through trial and error we DID learn which ones we liked the most. Amusingly, Bob and I do not like the same ones. But we can probably come to a consensus, as neither of us outright hated any of them either. When we return, or go elsewhere for that matter, we'll know exactly what we like.
The sheer gluttony involved, the eating for the sake of eating, the constant jostling and fear of not getting enough...I just couldn't figure out how anybody could enjoy their food like that. Eating for the sake of getting a lot of food is unhealthy, and it does disservice to the thing that's nourishing you.
There were a few who took obvious enjoyment in the ritual; I specifically remember one man declaring he didn't need a fork, he was "a slurper", then taking his sweet time tilting the shell to his lips and enjoying the flavor. THAT did my heart good.
At one point when people were starting to get very aggressive and pushy about things, we realized that we'd gotten what we wanted out of it -that is, to sample different types of raw oysters and preparations of them cooked- and that really we weren't having much more fun beyond that. Bob looked at me and said "You know, I could eat something else right now."
And I said "You know, I could too. How about cheeseburgers?"
With that, we departed, happy to be away from so many people in such a confined space going after limited resources. It was like Japan, but without the ingrained feudally-spawned politeness.
For the next 20 minutes we had drunken fun driving from King of Prussia to Radnor, where they have a Microcenter. I had been drooling over a laptop they had ever since the original one didn't work and wanted to have it in my hands to try it. If it was good, I was going to buy it then and there. I had fallen in love with the idea of a laptop too much to not have one, especially if it was only going to be $80 more with double the memory and hard drive space.
We got there and circled through, looking at things. I located the laptop, closed my eyes, typed on the keyboard, and when I opened them I was convinced I wanted to take one home. Previous keyboard being so unresponsive, I was really starting to appreciate when technology did what it was supposed to. When I was going through checking out the background on it, a saleman stepped up and began talking to me about the features on it. I guess it appeared that I wasn't really listening (he was listing things I didn't care about, so I may not have been) so he finally stopped and said okay... what will you be doing with this?
I turned to him and said you know, honestly, I'm going to take this home, strip Vista off of it, and replace it with Ubuntu.
The man blinked, and in that moment I realized he didn't know what Ubuntu was. The man who was supposed to help me make a decision on the laptop I needed to do things with in my life was standing there staring at me, lost.
Well, he then said, I guess I won't be selling you the extended warranty.
Then he went off on a tangent about how removing the operating system was going to void the warranty. Don't worry, I told him, I've got a household FULL of devices I have voided the warranty on. Non-plussed, he pushed further to make his point. What was I going to do, he asked, if something happened to it and it needed repairs? Well, if that was the case, I would fix it, I said. And either he didn't hear me or didn't believe me, becuase he continued on for a moment about how tough they could be to repair.
Nuh-uh. Not really. I own a screw driver. I can replace hard drives, RAM, processors, you name it. I can check wires. Software issue? I'll diagnose it. Because in the past few years, I have become a giant geek and I am freakin' proud of it.
He then asked, AGAIN, what I was going to use it for. Networking and programming I told him, I'm going to school and I need to code and write papers.
And he then looked straight at me and said "You know that thing doesn't have enough memory enough for that, right?"
It had 1 gig of RAM. As far as I"m aware, that's several more megabytes than is necessary to type something in to notepad in Windows. And at that point I promptly ignored anything else the man had to say about anything, because he didn't understand the product he had, he'd just been told to sell people on memory.
I bought some, but that was because I wanted to play video games on it and it was on sale for 66% off. That's not that bad a deal, actually.
What was funny was when the man went back to grab the memory (after assuring him that it was not "XP" I was installing as he kept stating, but Ubuntu, and yes, I wanted it for the hardware and the price, the thing was going to be my bitch the second I got at home and nothing else in the place even remotely interested me.) Bob came to me in the aisle, motioned me in close, then said under his breath "Hey, are you still drunk? Because you're buying a lot of stuff..."
I assured him I wasn't, and just the question made me laugh. He later stated that with as much as the man was questioning what I wanted to do, it was pissing him off, so he'd walked off for a bit. He figured I'd let him get away with it because of my normally congenial personality and the fact that I am a good-humored drunk. He had a very valid point. The man, despite my generally good mood, was a dumb ass and relatively rude in constantly questioning my knowledge and ability. I thought I might be over-reacting, but having someone there to confirm it made me feel a little better.
We gathered up the goods, I fairly skipped out the door with my new Acer laptop (which I still adore) and we headed up Lancaster Ave. to Berwyn, where a Burger King awaited us.
We finished off the night with double cheeseburgers, onion rings and shakes. And in a semi-dirty burger king run by teenagers that weren't paying attention to what they were doing while making the food, it was a far more comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere to be in. I love oysters, especially raw, but they just couldn't do for me what that greasy pile of hamburger and processed cheese-food could. I found it amusing that I (and from what I observed, Bob) were far more at ease in the fast food joint than in the nice restaurant. I guess you can take the girl out of the country....

...oh, and btw, when we got home he didn't see me again for the rest of the night, I was too busy playing with the laptop. It's freakin' awesome. ^_^

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