What impresses me most is that I got a loaf out of just flour, salt, oil, and water. Most supermarket “breads” contain exponentially more ingredients. I can’t tell you why.
My loaf is a bit antiquated, in a sense. Flat breads are twice as old as those made with yeast, beginning with the Egyptians in 8,000 B.C.E. I’m not sure who decided to use yeast first — some say it was an accident when spores from a brewery drifted onto a loaf.1 As with most fungus-related discoveries, I’m sure someone was very surprised.
… the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.
When I drop a nickel in a storm drain or lose a left sock, I am the type of person who believes that I will soon find a quarter, or that this Christmas will bring a new pair to replace my loss. Life has taught me optimism, but I’ve found that my positive attitude does not usually apply to first impressions of strangers.
I confess that I follow the same mental heuristics as anyone: I make snap judgements based on appearances and choices. These rote patterns just make processing easier. Instead of considering an individual, we often dote on rough edges. It is much easier to take in a pair of ratty snow boots, a hand gripping a 64 ounce soda, or a questionable, faded tattoo, than the possibility that the owner of any of these has depth beyond their visible choices.
On yesterday’s grocery trip, I lingered behind a woman blocking the produce aisle. She was taking her time. I was not. I felt deeply frustrated with this person who — by deciding to shop on my grocery night — had forced me to wait an additional 10 seconds to throw kale into a plastic bag.
In those 10 seconds, what was I thinking? I had taken in her broad, freckled shoulders long enough to notice her tattoo: the outline of a butterfly with a tiger’s eyes in its wings.
I am someone who does not understand body art. Or, rather, the impulse that would cause anyone to actually want a permanent image on their soon-to-be aging, variable body. Why would this woman, at age 20-something, make a decision to get a tattoo that would leave frustrated strangers in the supermarket something to gawk at?
For the duration of my shopping trip, I thought nothing more of the encounter.
On my way home, at the bike racks, I paused to look at the bike chained next to mine. While my bike is a rusted, refurbished Schwinn born before my time, its rack-mate was a near twin, save for a shiny blue paint job. Baskets on both were ready for groceries.
As I set mine in, the woman from the produce aisle walked up to the rack. She unlocked the bike next to mine, commented on our similar choices, and began in the direction of home.
Watching her ride off into the sunset, I realized heuristics had betrayed me.
This just goes to show that patience is a virtue, and that connections can be found when you least expect them. It’s not up to strangers to present themselves in a positive light. It’s up to you to look for it.
David Foster Wallace makes this point beautifully in This is Water. Here, an excerpt from a commencement speech made just 3 years before his suicide. While I don’t agree that daily life is this… bleak… the point here is that we always have a choice in how we interact with others. This is something I’ll take to heart.
I recently came across the work of French photographer and graphic designer Florent Tanet via one of my favorite blogs, Things Organized Neatly. This is one of the best uses of produce I’ve seen a while! I couldn’t find the images in a higher resolution, but they’re a joy, nonetheless.
I guess the reason why I hate dogs — other than appearance, smell, texture, behavior, and barking — is their density. Every time I touch one it feels like its particles are so packed there’s no room for my hands. For reference, cats are the opposite: approximately the density of noodles. As pets should be.