An Incident Beefs Up Perspective

Be careful while driving under the many influences of a burger. Jane Esaki photo

Be careful while driving under the many influences of a burger. Jane Esaki photo

It is mid-afternoon, and I am tired and famished after a long paddle.

Quick and easy solution: Order up a high-protein, lean, grass-fed beef burger at the nearest restaurant and take it to go.

Well, quick and easy it isn’t. I wait 10 minutes to place my order before waiting another 17 minutes for the simplest, smallest burger of all time to cook. It’s not like I am ordering a cardiac-arrest specialty like those featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, where a quarter-pounder might be topped with fried pickles, glazed onions, crispy bacon, slow-cooked chili con carne, drizzled with cheese and served with a heap of spicy, salty Cajun fries.

No, it’s going to be a very thin patty topped with the usual condiments on a plain, pint-sized bun.

Finally, some orders are ready, including mine. I unwrap it to check it. It’s mine all right, but only three-fourths of it. A chunk of the diminutive, over-cooked patty is missing!

I immediately return to the counter to show them the patty, and the cadre of teenaged workers just look at me as if they were caught red-handed.

How did this happen? The defense: “Oh, it must’ve broken off.”

Not even an apology. This irks me, but I instinctively hold my tongue and remain in a quietly livid state.

They offer to cook up another patty, but it presents a momentary dilemma for me. Am I going to wait again in the sweltering heat for this little burger? Of course, I already am invested, so I accept. Thankfully, the burger’s done in just five minutes and it looks fat and juicy.

As if this ordeal isn’t already enough to incite a boycott, I am driving home, barely chewing the burger when the tip of my tongue feels something hard. I pinch it out of my mouth and discover a sliver of clear plastic, like the tip of a fork!

I am once again upset, but my hunger wins over and I keep eating the burger, watching for land mines.

I will leave it up to fate: If I die from this burger, then the humble Japanese shikata ga nai (beyond one’s control) part of me probably deserves it because I complained. If I survive, then I’ll live to write about my experience.

So here I am.

I take this new lease on life not to lambaste but to self-reflect.

In hindsight, it’s not so much that the small burger was pricey or that the wait time was inordinate or that the patty was defective.

Or even that an apology was absent.

Sure, these combined qualities portray a model of inefficiency that should demand attention, even though it could’ve just been one of those rare situations where Murphy’s Law prevailed. And I will notify the restaurant’s management of this incident so, at the very least, no one’s innards get jabbed in the future.

But more so, I was mad at myself for choosing to get upset, and that made me feel as defective as the hamburger patty.

As Greek philosopher Plato reminds me, “There are two things a person should never be angry at: what they can help and what they cannot.”

In other words, there is no place for anger.

So, if not anger, then what should one feel?

Greek sage Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things he has not but rejoices for the things which he has.”

If these Greeks are spot-on, then I guess I actually had the pleasure of employing our youths, supporting a long-standing local business, buying Kauai beef and enjoying a tasty burger that ultimately satisfied my hunger.

Wow, who would’ve guessed that this actually was an experience to appreciate! Even if it wasn’t so quick and easy.