My birthday was a fizzling failure. Or a shimmering success. It depends on what lens you see it through.
Breakfast seemed simple: go out and have someone wait on me, bring me exactly what I want, clear things away and do the dishes. Luxuriate in some morning spoiling all while checking out a new café in town.
It was the heart of your typical breakfast rush hour when we walked in, and the place was…empty. Not a single customer. No greeter. No wait staff. Utter silence. Not a good sign.
“They’re new,” I said to Bubba. “Still working out the kinks.”
A waiter appeared from the kitchen, frazzled, with two place settings. He directed us to a table, handed us some menus, and turned back toward the kitchen, mumbling something about water.
“Coffee?” we called after him, hoping he heard us. No response.
We made our breakfast decisions. And waited for him to return to take our orders. Nothing. Bubba was headed toward the kitchen just as our waiter reappeared.
“Coffee?” Bubba tried again.
“We don’t have any clean coffee mugs,” he responded. “Our dish washer didn’t come in last night so all our mugs are dirty. Sorry.“ Short pause. “What can I get you for breakfast?”
It was abrupt, and not what we were expecting. A second “sign” about the place. But my taste buds had been tantalized by the bananas foster pancakes, so we ordered. Bubba, determined to tilt the ship back, went into the kitchen, hand washed a couple of mugs, and got us some coffee. It might have been ass-backward, but at least some dishes were being washed.
When the waiter brought our food, he put Bubba’s eggs down first, steaming. When he put my plate down, it had naked pancakes on it. No bananas. No foster. I looked up, confused, as the waiter set a small bowl of blueberries next to my plate.
“We didn’t have any bananas,” he said, “so I brought you blueberries.”
Blueberries? This was not what I had ordered; not what I wanted. It was too late to act on the previous warning signs: I was hungry and there was food in front of us, so we ate, a “wtf cloud” hovering over the table.
This was my birthday staycation, inaugurated by multiple glitches.
After we left I wanted comfort—and something sweet—so we popped into the coffee place next door, where I told the young woman our story, adding that it was my birthday, and it was starting out strangely.
“Here,” she said, handing me a chocolate-chip cookie. “On the house. Happy birthday!”
What a perfect counterbalance to our breakfast experience. My spirits lifted; this day would be good. It would be special. I would have stories to tell.
The cloud disappeared and we headed off.
When lunch rolled around, we decided to grab some sandwiches and picnic supplies at a small market in a wine-country village. Bubba and I sidled up to the deli and placed our orders. “Chicken salad on wheat bread,” I said.
“We’re out of wheat bread,” the guy behind the counter responded.
The deli was located in a grocery store. There was an aisle filled with bread. How, I thought—my brain hurting—could they be “out of” wheat bread?
“Huh?” I managed to mumble.
“We’re out of wheat bread,” he responded, slightly louder, as if I hadn’t heard him the first time. “What kind of bread would you like instead?”
I attempted a rational discussion with the guy about their grocery store aisle filled with bread—including wheat bread!—and got nowhere. The idea of buying a loaf and handing him two slices occurred to me. Instead, I settled on sourdough.
Bubba shook his head as we left the store.
“First breakfast, then lunch. You’re not destined to get what you want today,” he said.
And he was right. I wasn’t destined to get what I wanted.
What I got, though, was unexpected; and better.
I realized that what happens is less important than how I respond to it. The outside world has storms; they rain on weddings and churn life up. I can grumble and stomp my feet or turn my face into the rain. The storm doesn’t notice or care.
On that day the waves I experienced—the glitches that happened and that we surfed successfully—are what I remember. I got happy stories out of those “things gone wrong” moments by turning into them rather than resisting them. The moments had us shaking our heads and wondering at the world, and we still enjoyed ourselves. We were not churned up inside.
All the things that “went right?”
I’ve totally forgotten.