The other day at work, one of the customers asked me about our hamburgers, specifically about the cows the meat came from. “Are they grass fed?”
“Yes,” I told her, immediately. My answer surprised me. It was one of those instances where my mouth acted totally independently from the rest of my body. As soon as I answered in the affirmative, I came to terms with what happened, which was, a word escaped my mouth that had no business being spoken in the first place.
Because the real answer should have been, “I’m not sure about that. I can find out for you if you like.” But no, in that split second before I had a chance to start a thought process that would involve me explaining my lack of knowledge of the hamburger’s potential grass diet, my tongue and my lips decided to ambush the chain of command. I just said yes, so much easier than having to force a whole dialogue, finding a boss, asking if the cows ate grass.
Maybe my mouth has its own brain, maybe it thought out what that conversation might have looked like. Me, walking over to the kitchen manager, the guy multitasking at the window, processing orders coming in, constantly moving, talking to the chefs, garnishing the finished products, I’d interrupt him with a question, “Hey, uh, boss, uh … are the hamburgers made out of grass-fed beef?”
And he’d look at me, only for a second though, because he really does have a lot going on. But he’d only need a second, to give me a look of both confusion and anger, like, are you seriously coming to me with this bullshit right now? The most diplomatic thing he would do is to tell me to ask someone else. So I’d have to hunt around the kitchen, everybody moving, busy, too busy for crazy questions about grass.
Or maybe he would know. I guess I shouldn’t rush to judgment, just assume the answers to questions I myself don’t even know the answers to. It’s a little arrogant to think that this question is completely unanswerable. There has to be a diet these cows were being fed, and maybe it was grass, and maybe the kitchen manager knew.
But it didn’t matter, because I had already told this lady that, yes, they were grass fed. I briefly considered walking back from my impulse response, something like, “Wait, I don’t know why I said that, I apologize. I’m actually not sure. Let me go find out for you.” In retrospect, yes, that’s exactly how I should have handled it.
But again, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t even have time to consider my answers. And besides, the minute I said yes, this lady’s face lit up. It was an expression of genuine pleasure. Whatever was going on in my head, there was something equally powerful at work inside of hers. It was like she was picturing herself on the farm, all of the cows were eating as much grass as they wanted. And in between bites, they looked up to her, they said, “Moo! Thank you for only buying grass-fed beef. Our lives are so much better than our grain-fed cousins. And it’s all thanks to you!”
She repeated, “Really? Grass-fed beef?” And I was locked into my decision. My head nodded up and down, “Yes, grass-fed. And we grind the meat here.” Which was true, we do grind our own hamburgers. Hopefully just by throwing out additional information, I was somewhat elevating the overall truth of the entire conversation, like if you look back at everything I told her, you’d say, well, he only made up about ten percent of the information. So I started talking about the seasoning, all of the stuff about which I was positive.
She ordered the burger, and I did the only thing I thought would have avoided any potential problems: I passed off the check to another server, and I steered clear of that section of the restaurant until she left, crossing my fingers the whole time, hoping that she wouldn’t bring up the whole grass thing to anybody else.
And, as far as I know anyway, I got away with. In fact, maybe those cows are grass-fed. After writing this whole thing out, I’m realizing that I never bothered to follow up with anybody. I could have waited until the dinner rush died down, looked for the kitchen manager when he appeared not to be juggling twelve tasks, “Hey boss, I’m just curious, do we serve grass-fed beef?”
But I don’t know. And I don’t know why sometimes I can’t just say that I don’t know. I’ve got to stand there and make up easy answers, just lying to people’s faces.