Every once in a while something happens that makes you think about things in a way you have never thought about them before. Now I’m not talking about things that turn your world upside down or anything like that. Rather, this is about the things that make you want to give your head a shake because once you have thought about them in an entirely different way you wonder why you had never thought about them that way before. And the funny thing is, it’s often a rather innocuous and otherwise insignificant trigger, an innocent comment by some unsuspecting stranger who has no idea that what they thought was a common turn of phrase had become the catalyst for the revelations you were about to make. Had they known, they likely would not have simply turned and walked away with nary a glance back. But you will remember them forever because, without a doubt they influenced your thinking if not profoundly, at least a little. And you know I wouldn’t be saying all of this if it hadn’t happened to me not so long ago.
The story starts outside a very popular eating establishment on an uncharacteristically cold day during a visit to, what we in the West refer to simply as “The Island”. Thinking back from where I sit now, I must chuckle just a little when I say it was “cold” given that the temps on that day pale in comparison to the extreme cold warnings I am currently suffering through in my hometown. Nonetheless, there was enough wind to cause the ears and fingers to tingle so, suffice to say, it was a little frostier than we would have prefered it to be. Now we knew there would be a line for the brunch we craved because there is always a line for that brunch. What we didn’t anticipate was how long the line would be and how slow it would move. But we waited and eventually, as happens when one stands in line long enough, we were seated, handed menus and offered the requisite morning libations. So far, so good. There are enough choices at this particular establishment that you need a little time to ponder and perhaps one clarification visit from the server, in this case a very pleasant young woman who appears to enjoy bringing good food to mostly good people. After her initial visit and, having provided us with a sufficient amount of time to make up our minds, she returns to the table ready to take our order. Remember, this is breakfast so it’s not overly complicated and things go well, what with me having taken her earlier advice to switch from the apple to the orange french toast (which I have to say turned out to be the very best french toast I have ever eaten and if you are ever on “The Island” you need to let me know so I can tell you where this is) and my compatriot deciding to indulge on pancakes topped with some sort of banana concoction which turned out to be very good too. Seems pretty routine so far, no?
The thing is, after she took the orders, all the while acknowledging our rather exceptional decision-making skills, she stopped for a moment, looked us straight in the eye (well at least one of us since we were sitting across from each other) and asked: “Is there anything you strongly dislike?” Not “do you have any allergies” or “would you like that french toast well done?” or even “do you need sugar with your tea”? Just “is there anything you strongly dislike?” Which is when it happened. It’s when I realized I had never thought about the possibility that there were degrees of “dislike”. That I could dislike something more or less. Of course by now you know that, as a shallow person, I like to keep things simple. I like walking on the beach. I dislike walking in the snow. I like my lattes without foam. I dislike having to drink them on wooden chairs. I like winning. I dislike losing. You get the picture. It’s either one way or the other. I like something or I don’t. So you can imagine how this new concept, the idea of increments of dislike, could throw me for a loop. But having recently given it some consideration I can honestly say, I should have thought of that!
Now that I do know, I’m going to start thinking about things differently. Over the next little while I just might figure out what things I sort of don’t like and what things I really don’t like. I’ll probably try to rank them. Maybe make a list. Even though, as you probably already know, I don’t really like lists very much.