A few weekends ago, I rode my scooter to a farmers market. My goal was to enjoy a peaceful shopping experience on a sunny afternoon, support local agriculture by purchasing usuriously priced produce, and get some root vegetables.
Sometimes people call me a churlish misanthrope. I promptly correct these people by pointing out that I don’t actually hate everyone — just idiots, morons, and dullards. And that it’s not really my fault that they are not in short supply and — in fact — the world seems to have been completely overrun with them.
Some people then go on to tell me that I violate the social contract, because I have the audacity to say what I’m thinking. Polite society — I am told (since I let my membership lapse long ago) — is predicated on a bunch of people running around and lying to a bunch of other people about what they’re actually thinking, then going home and resenting the fact that they can’t actually say what they’re actually thinking. Seems like an awful lot of effort and subterfuge.
My way is easier, and frankly, more entertaining. (At least to me, which is what matters most to me.)
But what does my egocentrism and condemnation of the social contract have to do with root vegetables?
I wanted to purchase a bunch of carrots. I didn’t expect the transaction to be dreadfully complicated, as it involves the exchange of two items: carrots and money. I had the requisite U.S. currency, and there were bunches of carrots in a pile next to a sign than said, “Carrots — $3.00.” I even had my reusable grocery bag with me — made by Tibetan monks out of hemp (or something). I had organic-produce street cred, and I had $3.00.
What I didn’t have was an ability to suffer fools…
“I’d like a bunch of carrots, please.” (Look — I even said please. I tried to get things off on the right foot.)
“That’ll be $3.00.”
If she had just ended the transaction there, we’d have been OK. But she didn’t.
“– do you want the tops on or off?” (Referring to the giant green shrubbery attached to the top of the carrots.)
“Are they edible?”
I had not intended to unleash an impenetrable conundrum upon the girl. But I may as well have asked — while speaking Turkish, and juggling chainsaws (blindfolded, over a shark tank) — whether she happened to have the laws of thermodynamics cross-stitched on the inside of her bra.
To say that she looked like a deer in headlights would be an insult to the grace and confidence that those majestic creatures display before splattering across a windshield.
“I’m sorry?” she asked.
“Do people eat the greens?”
There weren’t a lot of ways her response could go. Yes or No seemed like obvious options. I waited.
“Well, some people want me to leave them on.”
“Yes, but, are they poisonous? Are they like hemlock? Will I die?”
“No, I don’t think so. I think people eat them.”
“How are the greens prepared?”
[Blank stare. Deep cavernous emptiness. Profound confusion. (This was me by the way, looking at her, equal parts curious and concerned by what might come next.)]
“Oh, um, people eat them in stuff, like maybe soup.”
“How is the soup made?
“You boil the greens in water.”
“I think that’s a recipe for tea, not soup. What do they taste like? Are they bitter, like beet greens?”
“I don’t think so. They have a carroty taste — like carrots.”
I have always liked the unassailable logic of a tautology. Nevertheless, after she said that, I knew one thing to be true with absolute, unquestionable certitude: Carrot greens could taste like anything under the sun, except carrots. Beet greens don’t taste like beets. Maple leaves don’t taste like syrup. Leather doesn’t taste like steak. Odds were better that carrot greens taste like turducken.
I thought about what to ask next. There were so many choices:
If they taste like carrots, why is there a giant pile of them in the trash can next to you?
If they taste like carrots, why don’t I see them in cake?
If I hold your skull up next to my ear, will I hear the ocean?
But I wanted to get home before 2017. So I handed her $3.00 and just took the unscalped bunch. As I walked away, I heard her ask the next customer, “Do you want the tops on or off?…”