Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Parlor Tricks

Thales the Owl walked into his local Baskin-Robbins and stood with his beak at the glass, trying to pick a flavor.

"Well, Vanilla is always good," he mumbled, absently rubbing his absent chin. Suddenly a voice came from inside the ice-cream freezer.

"Nah. You don't want that. Too predictable and boring. Haven't you had enough Vanilla? Try me! Pistacio!"

Thales blinked, a little taken aback at first. But then he remembered that this sort of thing happens to him all the time.

"Sorry, Pistacio," spake Thales. "I don't really care for green ice cream. You understand, don't you?"

"Fine, fine," Pistacio replied. "Then try that there Mocha Swirl. Very popular flavor. The kids love it!"

Mocha Swirl spoke up: "I'm over here! If you've never tried me, you should! Just for a change."

"Well...." Thales pondered for a moment before another voice jumped in--a feminine voice.

"Actually, you should try me: ORANGE SHERBET! I'm a classic! Cool. Refreshing. Familiar. And much better for you than these other flavors, frankly."

A chorus of protest rose up from the ice cream freezer, each flavor crying out "Pick me! Pick me!"

Thales stood there, scratching his head, unable to decide with all the yelling.

"Wait, wait!" Pistacio yelled. "We're not gonna solve anything like this. Let's just find out what the customer wants."

Various versions of "Yeah!" and "Good idea!" sounded from the different buckets of ice cream.

Thales said, "Well, I do think I'd like something different. But sherbet would be okay, too, I guess. It's hard to--"

"Gotcha! Sounds good!" Pistacio cut in. "All in favor of the customer having Sherbet, say Aye."

A brief set of "Aye's" wafted up from the ice cream freezer.

"All in favor of Mocha Swirl?"

Another set of "Aye's", roughly equal in number.

Pistacio said, "Hrm. Sounds like maybe a tie. Let's have the two of them debate and then we'll vote again."

"Er... Pardon me," Thales cut in. "Don't I get to decide?"

"Scuse me?"

"Don't I get to pick my own ice cream?"

"Oh, well sure. You had your say. Now we'll take it from here."

"But... but it's my ice cream."

"Riiiight. Um. Quick poll, here. Who here is ice cream?"

Another chorus of voices from the freezer. "I am! I am!"

"And, uh. Who here isn't."

Thales cleared his throat. "Me."

"Well, I rest my case. Let the experts handle this, pally. Now let's start the debate. Mocha Swirl, you're up first."

Mocha Swirl began: "The customer is clearly having a hard time deciding. But, with me, he doesn't have to decide. I can bridge the gap because I contain multitudes. I have chocolate. I have vanilla. I have coffee. I have nuts. The one thing we know is that the customer wants something different. And, it's face it, I'm something different."

Orange Sherbet cut in: "But I'm different too! I'm SHERBET! WOOHOO! SHERBET!"

Silence.

"Wooo!" Sherbet repeated.

Silence, but Sherbet pressed on. "Look: I contain no nuts. I'm smooth. I'm predictable. And, well...you know." Sherbet paused before adding, her voice dripping with meaning. "... I don't contain any chocolate."

After a long moment, Pistacio spoke up. "What do you mean by that?"

"Come on. You know what I'm saying. I'm 100% chocolate free! So you can pick me and not have to worry about that whole...chocolate issue."

"Wait, what are you saying? What chocolate issue?"

"Hey, I'm not 'saying anything'! I'm just telling you that I...don't have...chocolate."

"But we know you don't have chocolate. Why bring it up?"

"I just want to make sure you. You know. Get it. In case the customer...has some sort of...chocolate allergy."

"Oh, I don't." Thales put in.

"Quiet, you." quoth Pistacio. "Hrm. Sherbet, you have a point there. If the customer is allergic to chocolate, then Mocha Swirl could be a problem. All in favor of Orange Sherbet say 'Aye'!"

The "Aye's" rose up from the case. "Okay, then," Pistacio said, "Orange Sherbet for the customer."

"Now wait just a minute." Another voice from the case. "There are quite a few of us flavors who contain chocolate. We got Chocolate Chip. MINT Chocolate Chip. Plain old Chocolate. And me, Rocky Road. And et cetera, of course. Now Mister Customer: do you mean to tell us that you have a problem with ALL of us chocolate flavors?"

"No, no! There's been a mistake! I don't have a problem with chocolate at all."

"Of course you don't." said Orange Sherbet. "But do you really feel like you're READY for chocolate right now?"

"I..." Thales tried to think. "I don't know whether..."

"See?!", exclaimed Rocky Road. "This fool's got a problem with Chocolate!"

"Good point!" Pistacio said. "Orange Sherbet it is! Now will that be a cone or a cup?"

"You know what?" Thales said. "Never mind. I think I've lost my appetite."

 

 

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