Espresso – The Great Unequalizer

The act of ordering espresso has a way of revealing a person’s true nature. I often like to enjoy a small shot of espresso after eating a nice Italian meal. It caps off the experience in a way that dessert can only attempt.

I had lunch at a rather lackluster Italian restaurant called Amalfi’s last week. After my over-salted chicken and spinach entree, I thought some espresso might help better my opinion of the establishment. I ask the waitress, who did not possess a great command of the English language, and who I am fairly certain was not Italian, to bring out two shots of espresso for myself and my dining partner. After nearly 10 minutes, they deliver this:

There is nothing like pre-sweetened espresso (which tasted suspiciously similar to coffee) served in the same ramekins as marinara sauce to make one realize exactly how spoiled he is.

I’m currently reading a collection of essays by actor and writer Wallace Shawn. He opens the book with an essay titled “The Quest for Superiority,” making several acute observations on life as a member of the upper, or upper-middle class.

It’s obviously a characteristic of human beings that we like to feel superior to others. But our problem is that we’re not superior. We like the sensation of being served by others and feeling superior to them, but if we’re forced to get to know the people who serve us, we quickly see that they’re in fact just like us. And then we become uncomfortable–uncomfortable and scared, because if we can see that we’re just the same, well, they might too, and if they did, the might become terribly, terribly angry, because why should they be serving us? So that’s why we prefer not to talk to waiters.

Reading that passage, I couldn’t help but grit my teeth. I like to think that I am not a superior human being, that I see equality in all around me, but how can I say that when I fully expect my espresso to look like this:

QUESTION: Are you ever put face to face with things you dislike about yourself? Have you ever scoffed at the presentation of a meal, or complained about the way your maid folds your clothes? Things to ponder….

  1. I completely understand what Wallace Shawn was writing about. However…

    If you’re unsatisfied because an Italian joint serves you a sub-par shot of espresso (and in a ramekin??), it doesn’t make you spoiled. It doesn’t require any soul searching. It just means you owe it to the world to write a scathing review on Yelp. I’ll even help you with the tagline:

    “An old Italian maxim: Take the limoncello, leave the espresso.”

    And before anyone balks, I’m a waiter myself. And I’d be downright embarrassed to serve that to a table.

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