Could you please pass the salt?


I didnít realize a bet had been made.

It was around noon, and I had been dispatched to pick up lunch for the group. A local specialtyÖ hot weiners. Some fries. (Wein-O-Rama, people. Get to Wein-O-Rama. Canít add anything else to that recommendation.)

While I was away, some preparations were slowly beginning to take shape. Plates. Napkins. All of us have seen the drill. One person went for the food, the others kind of converse and such, while in no particular rush also grab some silverware and beverages and such.

Did I mention the fries? Good. Because thatís where the fun starts.

While getting a few things set up, someone asked about salt. And my mother-in-law responded by saying she didnít have any.

I will repeat that, elaborating slightly, and allow you a moment to let it sink in.

Lunch visit with some family. Iím out getting the food. Mother-in-law is asked where she keeps the salt in her house. She responds there isnít any.

No salt.

At all.

No salt in the house.

No shaker on the table. No container in the cupboard. No packets in the car.

No salt.

What kinds of things do you expect to find in a house or apartment? I mean, the entire house or apartment. The whole thing.

I mentioned a bet.

Before I returned, a discussion broke out over the salt revelation. Someone was disappointed she wouldnít have salt for her fries. Thatís when my wife said I would have some with me. A few exchanges, a bit of surprise as to why I would ever think to get salt, and you see where this is going: ďI bet he will.Ē

In the restaurant, someone asked if I wanted some vinegar for the fries. (Thatís a big thing in Rhode Island. And growing up, I thought the same thing you did. Try it. Trust me. Itís a not every time, but once every so often treat. Malt vinegar on your fries. (And Wein-O-Rama. Youíre welcome.)) I said yes to the offer of vinegar packets, not knowing if my mother-in-law would have malt vinegar. Since we had begun wandering down that path, I asked if she had some salt, pepper and ketchup as well. She did.

And so, I arrived with salt, and Terry won the bet.

The thought hung with me though.

I remember as a kid thinking that everyone had a phone in their house.

It just made sense. That was the connection to the outside world. It was how you made doctorís appointments. It was how you ordered a pizza. It was how you found out if you could sleep over at a friendís house. It was how you arranged a delivery of heating oil. Didnít everyone have a phone?

Back to that things in a house question? In a more focused version of it, what kinds of things do you expect to find in a kitchen?

If I told you there was no microwave, you likely wouldnít blink. Only one coffee mug, and you might understand that there werenít many coffee drinkers around. But no salt?

Salt and pepper are kind of the telephone of the kitchen. You donít even ask, you just kind of assume itís there.

(But is it? I mean, come on, there are folks all over the place living without landlines these days. If you went into a house, would you automatically find a phone to use? Chances are good youíre more likely to find salt.)

Every so often I bump into these things. Assumption-based things where people just kind of think everyone is operating from a similar set of circumstances. Like texting.

For years I had a cell phone, but couldnít text. I had one of those flip-style phones. It was rare enough that any people were calling me, and I certainly didnít have any need for the ability to send or receive texts. Even today, as I write this essay, roughly 60% of the time Iíve been a cell phone owner I couldnít text. It will still be a few years before we hit the 50-50 mark.

I actually had people coming up to me and asking why I ignored them. When I tried to figure out what they meant, it came out that I hadnít returned their text. You knowÖ the one I didnít receive because I couldnít receive it. That always got a chuckle.

Itís also more believable than a house with no salt. But, I know of at least one place where thatís true.


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