by RICK MORTON
I have a nemesis. An enemy par excellence. They are ruthless, they are dominating.
They are chopsticks.
It all started in a Teppanyaki restaurant when I was trying to catch a flying prawn like Mister Miyagi would a fly, except I looked more like a poor rip-off of Harry Potter in a fight with a Death Eater. It was terrifying.
There were 40 of us at the Very Fancy University Dinner and it seemed to me we were being tested on our ability to be Very Fancy which is definitely a good reason to give someone a scholarship to a university. My problem was, of course, that I wielded the chopsticks with all the grace of a child holding a brown snake, which, incidentally, I was better at.
See, chopsticks and I rarely had cause to meet. The nearest Asian restaurant during the first part of my childhood was somewhere between my house and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. And when we finally moved to town, the lone Chinese restaurant there appeared to hoist a white flag to cultural dining and just laid out forks for everybody.= display_ad('x18', 'hidden-xs hidden-md mm_incontent', 'MM In Content'); ?>= display_ad('x20', 'visible-xs mm_mob_incontent', 'MM In Content (Mobile)'); ?>
They also sold roast chook and chips.
For years the chopstick and I peacefully co-existed. They gripped food and I stabbed it with my fork, which seemed to me an altogether more remarkable feat of engineering. But there were no forks at the Very Fancy Teppanyaki Restaurant. No forks and 78 very judg-y eyes.
They were all chopstick-samurais. They could wire a two-bedroom apartment with their chopsticks, I couldn’t pick up a piece of chicken. Let us never speak of the rice.
For years afterward I was haunted by the experience. Usually I say these things with a pinch of jest but listen to me closely: it was one of the most embarrassing times in my entire life.
I react like a mistreated animal whenever anybody mentions my improper chopstick technique at restaurants these days. I snap and snarl and whimper. Do I just ask for the fork and suffer the stares of the ‘better trained’ or do I swallow my pride and opt for the chopsticks, even if it means I have reams of well-meaning friends telling me ‘oh, look, you’re holding them wrong. See, hold them like this‘.
Oh, it’s that easy is it? It reminds me of my friend’s golf advice when I was younger and overshot the hole: “You hit it too hard.”
Heavens, did I? I hadn’t noticed.
Dinners at Asian restaurants with my friends usually end in screaming matches and half-flung balls of sticky rice.
“PIVOT, JUST USE YOUR FINGERS AND MAKE THEM PIVOT RICK YOU IDIOT,” they’ll scream.
“I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. I JUST WANTED TO EAT THE GOD DAMN TERIYAKI WITH A GOD DAMN FORK AND WHY DIDN’T WE JUST HAVE TURKISH INSTEAD.”
And then I will recline, calmly, and stare at my hands coldly, willing them to do my bidding.
They never do.
– This post is kind of the exact opposite of this one.
What apparently super simple thing can you just not get the hang of?