“So, what kind of cake do you recommend for a four-year-old boy and his friends?” The woman asked. “Can you make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting?”
“Well…” the salesperson said. “I would suggest a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache in the center and chocolate ganache on top.” She then led this woman with a stroller, who was with her two young boys and a grandma, to look inside the glass display. Beautiful fancy cakes stared back at them. Tarte Tatin. Mille-feuille. Fondant. Frangipane.
“Can you make a cake with Spiderman on it?” The mom asked. “Or, maybe, in the shape of Spiderman?”
“Well…” the saleswoman trailed off. “If you have a picture of what you want, we can scan it and then put any image on the cake. But, no, we cannot make it in a different shape.”
“May I help you?” A different salesperson asked me.
I quickly ordered my favorite carrot muffin and paid for it with only partial attention. I didn’t want to miss a moment of this exchange. In just an instant, I had gone from minding my own business to preparing to butt into someone else’s.
Why? Because this bakery – this wonderful, delicious, amazing bakery that I frequent a few times a week – is just not the right bakery from which to order a child’s birthday cake.
And, as a bakery connoisseur, I knew just the place.
My crisp white bakery bag was in hand. Suddenly I was free to leave. But I was torn. Should I say something to this woman and her mother (or, perhaps, mother-in-law), or just let it go?
If you know me at all, then you already know the answer to this question. I almost never just let it go. Nope. That’s not my style. When given an opportunity to give an opinion about something about which I have a strong opinion, then opinion I must give.
Like Lucy from The Peanuts cartoon, I feel like it’s my job to give advice and guidance to others, even when that advice isn’t being solicited.
Especially when it isn’t being solicited.
I get this trait from my dad. He likes to write opinionated letters to businesses and such. He then likes to read them to me over the phone and remind me, with great pride in his voice, of how similar we are in this regard.
“So, this cake. It will be a rectangle?” The mother asked.
“Yes, like a ¼ sheet cake. Let me find out the price for you…” she said, trailing off as she disappeared behind the counter.
Now was my chance to butt in! I only had a moment. Heart beating fast, I clutched my carrot muffin and approached the family.
“Excuse me,” I whispered. The mom and grandma leaned in towards me, sensing the need for discretion. “I think you should go to another bakery.” I told them the name. I mentioned very fast that they had Spiderman, and Batman, and brightly colored cakes of all shapes and sizes. I mentioned that I have an 11-year-old boy who has had enjoyed 11 birthday cakes from this bakery.
One was a Spiderman cake.
Their eyes darted sideways as I shared the delicate gossip.
“What is this?” The saleslady said. She was back, and she was suspicious.
“Oh…” the mom said.
“I was just telling them about a place to get a child’s birthday cake,” I said, not wanting to put the mom on the spot. “I love your bakery, but I do think that this other one has the exact kind of cake they are asking for.”
Then I was given a death stare and quickly excused myself from the café.
“Well, maybe we should wait…” I heard the mom say. But she was trapped. She knew it, I knew it, grandma knew it, and the saleslady knew it. This wasn’t her perfect cake, but she now felt that if she left, she’d be insulting the bakery, and so she stayed and ordered a cake made of primarily dark chocolate.
“That was so rude,” I heard the saleslady say about me as I left.
I went to the supermarket and picked up some items, but I was distracted as I paced the aisles. Was I wrong? Could I have handled it differently?
Here’s my feeling about bakeries. They are like friends. I have many friends. Some, I like to have lunch with. Some I volunteer with. Others are just right for sharing complaints about my husband. (Not that I ever do that.) Some enjoy seeing plays and going to museums. With others I talk about books. Several make for fine drinking buddies. But very few – if any – can do it all.
Same with bakeries. They are all my friends. Some have amazing pastries. Some offer nice soups. One has oversized chocolate chip cookies that my kids adore. Another has a cheese Danish that my 100-year-old grandmother adores. One makes the prettiest cupcakes, another the best marble pound cake. Several make a mean latte. But very few – if any – can do it all.
This four-year-old boy did not want chocolate ganache. He wanted Spiderman. Preferably in red, yellow, and blue Spidey-colored butter cream that would get smeared all over his face and stain his nice party shirt.
Should I have kept my big mouth shut? Perhaps. It’s not like I was going to be at the party to enjoy whatever was selected. So why should I care?
But, oh! How hard it is to keep my mouth shut when I can share knowledge that might make someone else happy. In a big world with big problems, I often feel small and insignificant. I do not have the big answers. But I like to think I have a bunch of the small ones.
So I offer my opinion, if I think it’s going to help. And in this particular case, I could use my one superpower – the power of Incredible Bakery Knowledge – for good. I could butt in and make a recommendation that might make this kid’s birthday even more awesome than it was already going to be.
Or, I could have just kept quiet.
Was I wrong? Perhaps. Will I keep my (many) opinions to myself next time? Considering that I just told a woman in a shoe store that I liked the cork wedges she had on, I seriously doubt it.