People are crazy and times are strange. (Bob Dylan)
A renowned Texas Hill Country barbeque joint recently taped hand-lettered signs to every entrance door. In all caps and with the liberal use of exclamation marks and underlining, the customer was thereby notified that effective immediately “BUTTER BEANS ARE FOR DINE-IN ONLY!!!!! NO CARRY OUT!!!” Not that I cared. Add all the butter you want, they are still just lima beans, to which I have a lifelong aversion.
This is one of those restaurants where you select your own side of beef, or hunk of pork, or slab of ribs from a smoker, and you buy it by the pound. As you move along the counter, you have your choice of side items which run the full gamut from starch to sugar to starch. A nice woman offered to help me, but I was already being helped and didn’t want to create a problem by using up more than my share of helpers. “Oh, honey,” the woman said, “you won’t make a problem any bigger than The Great Butter Bean Controversy.”
As the nice woman explained it (with a fair amount of eye-rolling, it must be said): apparently the Dine-In Regulars insist that there be butter beans available whenever they want them. And apparently the Take-Out Customers have a tendency to take out more than their share, thereby creating a shortage.
It has come to this, then? You allow the world get all hateful about politics and religion, and what happens? The next thing you know: you’ve got a butter bean battle boiling. What is WRONG with people? Don’t you just wonder why is it is so hard simply to do right and leave each other alone and respect one another’s needs for butter beans? (OK: you don’t wonder this. This failing is human nature, a tendency from our earliest years. I once was admiring a line-up of kindergarteners walking along with their hands in their pockets, like tiny hipsters. I remarked to my friend their teacher that I had never seen such chilled-out and relaxed kids. “No,” she said. “I made them do that so they would stop bothering each other.”)
But back to the nice woman at the barbeque place. After she explained the controversy, I asked were they really that good, because, come on…lima beans? “Here’s what you do,” she said. “Take this container to the ‘extras’ buffet and get yourself some butter beans. Sit down at a table, have a bite, and then put a lid on them and take them home.” Impressed by her total disregard for the Oppressive System (I was a child in the 60s, after all,) I did as she suggested.
And my eyes were opened. Epiphany. Spiritual experience. The beans were obviously cooked with love and onions by somebody’s granny, and I think this anonymous granny has changed my life. I did not feel one teensy bit bad about taking those butter beans right on out of the restaurant, along with my slabs of meat.
But I did wonder later: is my spiritual experience more important than that of those who follow me, or, for that matter: more important that that of those who dine in a different way than I do? At the same time, do the Dine-in Regulars have the right to deprive me, a Take-Out? I love this barbeque joint, but do I have to be IN THE RESTAURANT to have the experience? Who gets to control the Spirit?
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs
blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind
“Do this, don’t do that”
Can’t you read the signs?