On Social Expectations and Sushi

This tale, like most, requires a bit of backstory. Thanks to my ongoing eye struggles, I spent the day working from home instead of in the office. Also thanks to my ongoing eye struggles, I’ve accumulated a bit of social debt to my roommate who’s been kind enough to ferry my visually impaired self around so I’m not often behind the wheel of a car. In order to pay off this debt and satisfy my craving for bulgalbi, I decide to take him to lunch at a local Korean restaurant.

A few minutes after ordering our meal, one of the waitstaff drops off a set of sushi rolls. The words “Sorry, we didn’t order this” die on my lips, because they’ve been known to drop off the occasional complimentary roll, even if it is usually the kind of thing that goes to a larger table. Especially two rolls worth. The waitress walks away. This is officially a TABLE GIFT.

My roommate and I examine the goods. One roll appears to be some kind of avocado monster. Literally covered with thick slabs of avocado. The other was some kind of spicy roll with your standard amount of avocado found in americanized sushi. This is important because my roommate is allergic to avocado. Also of note, despite the best attempts of several friends and loved ones, I’ve never found a taste for sushi.

We both stare at the plate in front of us.

“It’s a gift,” he says.

I nod.

“More than that, it’s food,” he says. “We can’t let it go to waste.”

I nodded again. Our parents had driven home the idea of starving children in other lands well and good.

My roommate grabbed a plate, and started performing surgery, removing the large bits and pieces that could, at the very least, make the rest of his day uncomfortable. That broke the last of my defenses. If the guy allergic to avocado was going to give this a shot, I had no real objection worth any salt.

I managed to choke down one of each by the time food arrived. He’d cleared out another two of the spicy and one of the avocado monster. The waiter that dropped off our food gave us an odd look, but didn’t say anything.

We’d both turned full attention to our actual meals when the guy came back.

“Did you order this?” he asked, pointing to the sushi.

“Erh. No.” I say.

“But you’ve given out free sushi before,”  my roommate chimed in.

The guy sighed. “True. That’s very true. This time it was another table’s though.”

Some combination of shame and irritation washes over me. “Sorry,” is all I can think to say.

“Don’t worry about it, our mistake,” the guy says. I watch him go to the table who had ordered the sushi. Great, now I had a pair of faces to associate my guilt with.

I continue to work on my ribs. The sushi, sushi that will go uneaten, stares at me. The other table gets their replacement order. The sushi stares at me.

“I’m going to talk to them, see if they want the rest,” I say. My roommate shrugs.

I’m not great with people.Especially strangers. I can’t tell if this guy and girl are on a date, or just friends. Both a little older. Talking close. Talking too low for me to hear.

“So, uh, I hear your food got delivered to the wrong table. Uh, because it was mine.”

Yup, that’s me. Mr. Charming.

The guy looks me up and down.

“How’d it taste?” he finally asks.

“Uh. Good,” I say, not wanting to tell him that his meal of choice had the taste and consistency of spoiled pudding to my unrefined palate. “Look, we didn’t get that far into it. Do you want the rest?”

They stare.

“I mean, it’s not going to get eaten, otherwise. So, sorry. It’s all yours.”

The guy and girl both perk up.

“Sure thing, man,” he says.

I grab the plate and drop it off. They look happy at the surprise 75% increase to their meal. I sigh, a heavy weight off my chest, and return to my table to ponder a personality where I’m more comfortable eating food I actively dislike than to tell the waitstaff I don’t appreciate their gift.

In the end, I just decide I’m glad I didn’t have to eat the whole thing.


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