Monday, December 03, 2007

More about that cake…

Network's Howard Beal:
I'm Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going Take It Anymore!
You have to understand that I do in fact have a temper. It is not a wildly uncontrollable temper; I don't fly into psychopathic rages- this despite our lying son-of-a-bitch friend Zaremba and his friends in the Polish justice system. But I can and do get angry. I am also not so dense as to disbelieve that my physical state might plat a part in things. You eat something that disagrees with you, you are under stress; this has an effect. No sleep. Bickering. Laziness. These are the sorts of things that tend to piss me off.

Overwhelmingly though what really makes me angry are the unnecessary inconsistencies in the word around me. We all have our lives to lead; choices to make, places to go, people to see. But then right there in the middle of everyone trying to go about their business you get some idiot going spastic on you for no understandable reason. Could be selfish, could be cheap, could be drunk, could be jealous; could be any number of unpleasant things but suddenly you are staring at a chasm in front of you where just a moment before you were expecting a bridge. "Just do your job!" I scream to myself. Even when it is right in your face, you can never, ever, ever seem to get the point across that they are not helping with any subtlety. You would think that the issue would be known already, but it never is because you know the troublemaker will inevitably refuse to understand or to even acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong no matter how the information is put to them. Again, we have five years of screaming at Poland as remarkable example of this sort of thing. Those guys are so reprehensible that they need their own special charts just to monitor things. Of course in Poland's case, they save hope by knowing that they can always just change the texts: Polish, as they say here in Belarus, is not a nationality, it is a profession. Me? I am sending tasers as Christmas presents to all my Polish friends. Seems to do the job.

But what I am saying is that right there at the moment I decided to take that so-called cake back to the so-called bread store, there was some emotion in me; I wanted not only to return the cake, I wanted to confront them for having sold an old cake to a 12-year-old boy who was trying to buy a birthday present for his mother. Is there no shame? We know who the sellers are and this is not the first time that Egor has been had out there. We know how they can be. And really, I am not without sympathy for the hysterical economic situation that the beautiful and interesting republic has found itself in. But I am against the attitude adopted over the last few years by management and sellers alike that pressing for every penny possible is more important than reasonable exchange of value. Or better, considering the fact that there isn't any competition, is it really necessary to rub our noses in the same shit we are being fed?

Well like I said I have a temper and I do not like when people mistake my kindness for weakness. My father taught me a long time ago that one should never quit a job before they have another but early on I came to understand that this does not only apply to business but to any relationships. I guess it also implies that cheating is a part of things (how did you find that second job while you were technically still working the first?) but in any case the real truth is that the back door is as open as you want it to be; if you are not satisfied with your lover, there must be fifty ways to leave her- at least according to Paul Simon. And the truth is that I had in fact already found something better. And not just a littl better but a lot better. When that bread shop sold Egor that crappy cake for his mother's birthday, it not just a mistake in my mind, it was the last straw.

The other bread shop

Several weeks earlier I decided to stick my head in at the bread shop just next to Anya's kindergarten. I knew that there was bake shop there but never thought of them as doing anything other than cookies and baked buns and such. Because I don't go for sweets all that much and because usually there is zero difference between one food shop and another- this of course being a part of the great master plan of how to discourage competition (or travel or even movement in general) in the Soviet Union, the thought never occurred to me to go there. But then one day, strictly by chance, I had the idea to grab a little treat for Anya for the road home. When we stepped through the door, the first thing I noticed was that they were stacking the shelves with some fresh from the oven white bread.

"I didn't know you guys sold bread here?"

"Of course we do. We make it right next door."

As you might understand right now I am a sucker for fresh bread, so I bought two loaves and took them home. Actually, I started chewing on one on the road home and from the minute I put some of this tasty, warm and seemingly alive piece of real and genuine fresh bread in my mouth, it was like the gates of heaven opening up. When Anya and I got to the house I didn't even bother putting up any tea and for the next 20 minutes all I did was spread a little butter and chew. It was amazing bread. I didn't stop eating until the whole bread was gone and then, I went back and bought two more. When Tanya got home I had a buttered piece waiting for her when she came through the door.

"What do you think of this?" At first she didn't want to taste it (you can understand how the negativity can build up after a while) but I insisted, so she took a bite. She blinked a few ties while she was chewing.

"This is not from our bakery. Where did you get this?"

"It's good isn't it?" She didn't even bother to get undressed but went straight into the kitchen and started to spread butter. Tanya is a little more civilized at times than myself and actually put up the water for the tea while chewing.

Oh, and did I mention that it was even a little cheaper?

So over the next while we sort of split time between the bread shops. On Sunday mornings when we could see the truck we would go for a baguette from the corner shop but in general I picking my bread from the shop next to the kindergarten every time I picked up my daughter. And believe me when I tell you that it is really nice bread. It has this soft yet rich texture to it that does not seem to diminish so much even when left in the bread box over night. We can never seem to understand if it is the yeast or the flour or the baking technique, but whatever it is, it is certainly head and shoulders over the corner shop.

Then came that Thursday afternoon birthday party. When I had first sent Egor out to buy the cake I did specifically tell him to go to the bakery next to the kindergarten for the cake.

"Don't go to the bread store across the street," I told him "go to the pace a little farther a way that sells better bread. They have the cake we want today, do you understand? It's your mom's birthday; let's just get her the best cake."

When he came back with a cake from the corner bakery I asked him why. He was a little upset, but told me that the kindergarten bakery had been closed for lunch.

"How can they be closed for lunch? The sign on the door says that they work every day without a day off or a break for lunch."

"They were closed when I was there."

"Why didn't you just come back and go out again after an hour?"

"You said go and buy a cake…"

"Did you actually go over to the bakery or did you decide it was too far to walk just went across the street?"

"I went there but they were closed." I looked at the cake he had bought.

"Is it fresh at least?"

"Yes."

"Did you ask them if it was fresh?"

"Yes, the lady said they were all fresh and to take whichever one I wanted from the case."

You know the rest.

So what I am saying is that I was not only angry at the bakery for cheating Egor on his mother's birthday, I was also angry at Egor for having gone to the wrong bread shop in the first place. I knew there was something better out there. I knew what was possible and having Egor come back with this second hand, second choice, second class cake really got me going. And then, when I saw how the knife acted as it made its way down through those cruddy, dry, tasteless layers, I guess I snapped. To me, this was no different than some punk-assed, off-duty cop trying to run you down with his car; I am sorry, I just don't take this sort of thing lying down.

To be continued…

1 Comments:

Anonymous Harry said...

Hey,

I love the blog. I am a new nurse, and would like to visit Belarus one day in the future as a volunteer. The cake story is interesting. I lived in the Netherlands for a few months, and know exactly how you feel. It is the little things that drive you crazy, like “WTF are they thinking?” Looking forward to hearing how this ends. You have really built up the suspense, I hope it doesn’t end anti-climatically with you saying “I’m mad” and leaving! I really don’t see that happening, but then again, I hate to think you beat some bread shop people with a bike? Again, always interesting.

Harry

Saturday, December 22, 2007  

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