I don’t even eat oatmeal

ever.

I have nothing against it, but it’s just not part of my daily diet. When I hear about it, it sounds good, and the people I know who eat it seem happier and healthier than the people who don’t, but it’s such an ugly food (regardless of the amount of cinnamon and raisins used to decorate it), that I’ve never given it a try.

The closest thing to oatmeal that I’ve eaten is Cream of Wheat. I used to eat it as a little person. In fact, I developed a strange obsession with it, an obsession so strange that a doctor once wrote the following in my medical records: “Mother concerned. Child refuses to eat anything except for oatmeal and grape Kool-aid.”

Cream of Wheat. Not oatmeal.

So, when the lady who works behind the counter of one of my favorite cafes looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oatmeal!” I had no idea what she meant. I hadn’t ordered oatmeal. I had ordered a small, skim milk cappuccino, and was enjoying it while reading an obscure novel by an even more obscure novelist. No oatmeal.

I was able to break away from her oddly intense stare and get back to my book, but she kept saying at me: Oatmeal! Oatmeal! OATMEAL! Then she exchanged “oatmeal” with another word that, given the circumstance, I found quite puzzling: “Mecca. Mecca. MEEEEECCA!”

It occurred to me, only in passing, that I might be part of some hidden camera caper. Or, I thought, perhaps I was being hazed. I’ve only lived her a few months, so I’m still learning about the place. Perhaps shouting random nouns at the new girl is part of what it means to live in Clinton Hill.

Oatmeal!
Mecca
Oatmeal
Oatmeal
MECCA!

Mecca? Was this a special kind of Islamic oatmeal? Was it a password?

Or a safe word?

The cafe was not busy and hadn’t been since I arrived, so the shouting of these two words was a bit jarring. Oatmeal. Mecca. Oatmeal.

People began to stare at me. I started to get nervous and thought that maybe I should say something as my continuing to read seemed to be driving the woman behind the counter into a kind of frenzy.

Then a woman walked in.
A moment of silence.
Counterlady says, “Mecca. Oatmeal” once more, and it all becomes clear.

It made perfect sense because we looked exactly alike–despite a 50 pound weight difference, a difference in shirts (her was white while mine was red with NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND emblazoned on the front), a difference in pants (style, color, fit), and a difference in head gear (a brightly colored scarf vs….nothing). It made perfect sense, despite the fact that I hadn’t responded to the Oatmeal/Mecca chant. And I wear glasses. And the other woman didn’t.

I know what you’re thinking, “Tricia, the cafe was busy.” It wasn’t. Not at all.

And I don’t eat oatmeal…ever

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