An exerpt from my forthcoming book, We Found the Vacuum Cleaner. It's only forthcoming; I didn't say "soon coming."
I was watching TV the other night; 20/20 or something like that. I know, I know, I should have been blogging, but something caught my attention finally. It was a story that claimed it’s safer to eat in an expensive New York restaurant than it is to eat in your own home. I used to be in the restaurant business, so…
Here’s the scoop. The newshunter and his camera crew slipped into one of the most expensive and exclusive restaurants in New York City—the kind of restaurant that keeps an on-site health inspector. The owner proudly took them on a tour of a spotless kitchen where the staff ate their own meals directly off the gleaming floor.
Pretty soon the newshunter sat down with a handsome couple in the dining room and announced that they were eating in a really clean restaurant. They didn’t have to worry about salmonella or the plague or anything unhealthy. (I think this was New York. Correct me if I’m wrong.) The couple seemed pleased—until the newshunter said, “Let’s go to your house and see if it’s clean enough to eat in.”
“Hey, great, Dude,” said the husband. “Come on over.”
“My house is a mess,” said the wife. “I don’t think so!”
"Aaah, no problem," said hubby. "Let's go." Then in a brilliant flash of insight, he added, "Waiter, gimme a sack for our wine bottle."
“Grrr!” snarled the wife, but everybody went anyway. The house was a mess alright, but that’s not the point of the story.
The in-house health inspector immediately gagged over a damp sponge in the kitchen sink. He gasped and gasped about open potato chip bags in the cupboard. He snapped on some latex gloves. The wife glared at her husband. The inspector opened the refrigerator and lifted a plastic bag full of something slimy and green. He held it up with a thumb and forefinger. Then he hoarked.
”I’m embarrassed, dude,” said the husband. “I think that’s the applesauce. Isn’t this the applesauce, hunny? Do you still want it?”
The newshunter stared into the camera and harrumphed self-righteously at us. (“What’s the big deal?” I wondered. “It looks like home to me.”) Meanwhile, the wife quietly slipped a big butcher knife out of the drawer and stepped behind her husband.
Outside, the newshunter looked into the camera again and told us [words to the effect], “... you should never eat at home; you should only eat eighty dollar dinners in expensive New York restaurants every night so you won’t get food poisoning, ptomaine poisoning or athlete’s foot.” He even said it with a straight face.
Well, the next day, my daughter, who lives down the road in Wheatgerm, Kansas, came over with all three grandkids. It wasn’t long before we decided to go to the shopping center. We all jumped into her van (or is it an SUV?). I climbed into the back end to be close to the grandkids who were already snacking. My First Wife Chancie sat up front.
“What are you kids eating?” my daughter asked as she pulled out of the driveway.
“French fries,” they said in unison.
“Where’d you get French fries?”
“They’re left over from last Saturday,” said Grandson One.
“No, dummy! From last Thursday,” said Grandson Two, who has the great memory. "After basketball practice. Remember?"
While we rode to the shopping center I found several little bits and pieces of French fries, Pez candies, M&Ms, napkins, chip crumbs, unfinished lollipops, a sock filled with something spongy that used to be ice cream, popcorn, one of those diapers that you just roll up after you take it off the baby. One of the boys pulled a short length of licorice from under my shoe. I didn’t see it down there; it being black and hidden with lint. Apparently, it still tasted pretty good.
I found two cold-cheese pizza slices. “Why don’t you throw these away as soon as your done?” I asked.
“We can’t. We have to save them for breakfast tomorrow so Mom won’t have to stop when she’s taking us to school.”
I picked up a hamburger wrapper from under Mom’s seat. It was partially covered by an almost dry gym towel. I peeked inside the wad and saw something that had turned green. “Anybody want this?” I offered, tongue-in-cheek.
“Give it to the baby,” said Grandson One, seriously.
“No, Granddad! We can’t give this to her!” said my alarmed Grandson Two. He turned to his brother. “Mom said she can only have a bottle in the car! Remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Grandson One, and he groped around under the seat untill he found her bottle. It was stuck—but not too tightly—to a soft drink cup. He picked dog hair off the nipple, then sterilized it clean on his pant leg. The baby, safely strapped down in her car seat, went right after it; seemed to enjoy it.
“This reminds me of the time you were little." I said to Grandson Two. "You and the dog were eating dinner together—right out of his bowl.”
“Yeah, I still remember that. That's funny.”
“Oh, good!" My daughter called from the front seat. “I’ve been looking for that bottle for two weeks. Where’d you find it?”
I handed Grandson One a flattened candy bar, which he expertly licked off the wrapper, which he carefully folded and slipped into the diaper bag.
I decided to do a little newshunting of my own. “When’s the last time you were sick?” I asked.
“Mom,” he hollered. “How old was I when I had the chicken pox?”
I’m thinking that the newshunter, the restaurant owner and the on-site health inspector have never been married.