Saturday, July 26, 2008

Don't Ignore the Warning Signs

Last year while looking for someone to sublet our apartment for the summer, Beta Wife decided to bake a cake to make the house smell warm and homey during the interview process for potential tenants. We then joked that it would be a "big red flag" if one of those people didn’t like cake—that liking cake would be one of the requirements for us renting the apartment to them. That person would also be looking after our cats for the summer, so we had to know we could trust them. “Well, we know not to rent to them if they don’t eat cake!” we laughed, ha ha ha…Ha.

She seemed nice enough, this potential tenant and cat sitter (we'll call her Character Flaw), quiet and reserved. We assumed there would be no late night keg parties, instead it appeared as though there would be a lot of knitting and World of Warcraft. Textiles and computer games sounded safe enough, and we proceeded to offer her a piece of the fresh-from-the-oven, still warm pound cake. She declined. “I don’t like cake,” Character Flaw said, politely. We must have stared at her for a full minute before we realized that she wasn’t joking. It seemed Character Flaw had no sense of humor, either. Beta Wife and I looked at each other in horror—it was clear we needed to hold council immediately in the kitchen. We offered her some coffee (again, declined) and finally managed to get her to accept a mug of unsweetened herbal tea. Quietly, we discussed her fate in the kitchen.

“She doesn’t eat cake?” I sputtered, incredulously.
“Who doesn’t eat cake?” Beta returned.
So far she was our best bet for the summer—but this cake thing was creating a serious problem. In whispers, we finally decided it would be silly to turn her away--we were overreacting. Character flaw could stay for the summer.

Now we know better.

Two months passed, and we arrived back home, glad to be in our own house despite the fact that we were returning to a couple of angry, judgmental cats. Later that week I decided to make a curry—I remember this moment well—when I went looking for the Thai curry paste in the fridge.

“I’m sure we had some…” I said, while pawing through the freshly stocked fridge.
“Maybe we used it all before we left and you just don’t remember,” offered Beta Wife.
“No, I’m sure we had, like, a full jar," I insisted.
Fine. I would make something else. Veggie burgers and tater tots, perhaps.
“Hey, where’s the ketchup? Wait a minute…”

I looked, disbelieving in the fridge; there were no condiments. None. Not just the ketchup and curry, but the bouillon paste, the Canadian mustard I brought back from St. Lawrence market in Toronto and the Senf I had hauled back from Austria. Gone was the sesame oil, walnut oil, soy sauce, and Miracle Whip (which has a shelf life of several thousand years). Character Flaw had thrown out everything in our fridge, except for a few bottles of beer. In the freezer she left a box of frozen yogurt bars, unopened. This, my friends, is a cautionary tale.

Today’s my birthday…let’s eat cake.

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