While in high school, college, and grad schools, I always seem to get the blandest jobs: cutting lawns, delivering papers, stocking shelves, or working in a mill. While doing research for my writing projects, I traveled to French Polynesia. It is a garden paradise created by a strange mix of man and nature. While taking it all in, I thought that it would have been great to have had a summer job in Bora Bora or any of the other islands. While having breakfast and writing one morning, I had my summer job fantasy quickly dissipate like a rain storm in the South Pacific. My wife and I were enjoying our breakfast when my attention was drawn to a couple in their late 50s. He was complaining to the hostess about something not right about where they were being seated. Mind you, this complaint was registered in one of the lovely restaurants in the best resort in Moorea. No matter where you looked, you could see the sea, lagoon, breaches, palm trees, swimming pool, lush vegetation, wild birds serenading, and here in the midst of all this beauty, this guy was complaining. That should have been a warning.
No sooner did the hostess settle Mr. Grump down, he was calling her back. He wanted his waitress-apparently he was in a hurry on holiday. The hostess explained that he could go to the buffet and serve himself whenever he wished. Well, he didn't wish; he wanted a server. Then Mr. Grump uttered for the first time a sentence that he used over a dozen times during his brief breakfast, "I don't do buffets." By this time, I was into this obnoxious American behaving poorly in paradise.
The Polynesian hostess went far beyond her job description with this malcontent. She explained that breakfasts were buffet, and he retorted by inquiring how soon it would be before one of the restaurants would serve him rather than having to do buffets-which apparently didn't do. She said that the formal dining room opened at eleven for lunch. It was now eight in the morning. By all appearances, this guy had money and probably the brains to figure out what the hostess was saying politely. Amid the pleasant songs sung by passing birds, she got the message across that he could have a buffet breakfast now or wait three hours and have lunch, which would be served. However, clearly implied in her measured response was that he wasn't going to get breakfast this morning unless he would serve himself.
Being a shrewd businessman, he picked up on his options and stumped off for the buffet. The buffet consisted of six very large serving tables looking like a banquet prepared for a king. At one table were displayed all sorts of cheeses, especially French varieties, because this is a French colony. I personally was in heaven because I do do cheese. Then there was the table that I should have done more with and less among cheeses-the fruit table. This table contained a large variety of mostly unknown fruits. Then there was the bread table. Bread is my comfort food, and I hovered over that table about as long as did at the cheese display. Then came the cereal table with an assortment of grains along with milk or flavored thin yogurt if you wished. Also, at this table were the traditional yogurts for the health-food folks and those that want rich intestinal cultures while in this topical Xanadu. Then came the meat table with its assortment of breakfast meats: ham, bacon, and beef-some cooked and others smoked. Along side the meat selection were several types of baked potatoes and tomatoes. The final table was devoted to a chef who would prepare eggs any why that you would wish. Except for the fact that I hadn't died, I thought that I was in heaven.
After being politely encouraged to try the buffet, Mr. Grump returned with an apple and orange. What? With hundreds of things from which to choose, he picked an apple and orange. He pouted momentarily until he got his ugly American game-face on again. Then he called the hostess over for another culinary bout. He points to the two fruits and complains again about having to do buffets with which he has a policy of not doing.
Mr. Grump then asked about whether they had fresh pineapple juice. The hostess assured him that the juice was freshly squeezed. He asked again, and she said that she would bring him freshly squeezed pineapple juice. Soon she returned with a large glass of juice. He took a drink of the pineapple juice like it was a fine wine and rejected it. It was too warm. This guy obviously was a city slicker; he probably thought pineapples were ice cold fruits growing in the tropics.
About this time, I noticed it started to rain. It would rain once or twice day for about five minutes and then return to sunny and warm. He called the hostess over and asked whether it rains a lot in French Polynesia. I wanted to ask where the lush and green tropical vegetation and every imaginable flower came from unless it rained in this tropical paradise?
Finally, off Mr. Grump and his poor wife stumped leaving me to contemplate that perhaps I wouldn't have wanted a summer job in paradise if I would have had to deal with boorish types like Mr. Grump.