A few years ago, before the dot-bomb, my job required me to travel to Toronto to meet with software developers there. On one of the first few trips, my boss booked us in one of the poshest hotels in Toronto. Genuine wood furniture. Soft carpeting. Real granite in the bathroom. Completely soundproof walls and windows. Internet connections in the rooms.
On the last day of our stay, I had some Canadian money left over, which I wanted to use up before heading home. I decided to go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast and to spend my last Canadian $20 bill.
Even in the morning, the restaurant had a maître d’ and the tables were spread with fine white linen and genuine silverware. The maître d’ seated me at a table and handed me the leather-bound menu. When she left, I flipped it open and skimmed the prices on the heavy cotton paper. A fancy egg dish with Peameal bacon, homo milk, and something called brown bread (is it whole wheat or pumpernickel?), about $25. Swap out the eggs with pancakes or French toast or other choices and the price was still over $20. I began to worry that I would have to excuse myself from eating there for lack of funds.
Then I spotted the one item that was under $20. It was something called Weetabix, for $17, leaving just barely enough for a tip and completely spending my Canadian bacon. The only thing I didn’t know was what Weetabix was. For $17, I imagined it must be something substantial. My mind immediately leapt to a vision of a beefy, rugged, Canadian hockey player, fresh off the ice, hunkered down over a bowl of hot, steaming Weetabix. Like Wheatina, but not girlie. Like Cream of Wheat, but not creamy, more gritty and full of fiber.
The waiter, Dapper Dan, approached, a white linen towel draped over his arm a carafe of water in his hand. When he spoke, it was with a British accent, rather than a Canadian one. “Good morning, sir.” Using the towel to prevent the carafe from dibbling, he poured water into my glass, then stood at attention. “May I take your order, sir?”
With my taste buds eagerly awaiting a steaming hot bowl of wheat grains, I said “I’ll have the Weetabix, thank you.” To which he responded “Very good, sir,” making me feel pride in my choice. “Will there be anything else, sir?” I thought of saying “Of course not, a hot bowl of Weetabix will do just fine,” but instead I just said “No, thank you.”
I thought it would take about ten minutes, maybe more, to heat it up. I was very surprised when, a couple of minutes later Dapper Dan returned carrying a fine china bowl in a hand elevated level to his ears and a carafe in his other hand.
He stopped at my table and said “Your Weetabix, sir,” and set the bowl in front of me.
In the middle of an eight-inch diameter bowl was a single three-by-six inch log of shredded wheat. It didn’t even have a frosted side.
I wanted to say “Is this it?” or “Where are the others?” or “What happened to the frosted side?” Instead, I said “Thank you.”
“Would you like milk on that, sir?”
I wanted to say “Oh, no, I like dry, absorbent cereal that soaks up my excess saliva” or “Of course, you idiot!” Instead, I said “Yes, please.”
He again poured using the towel to prevent spilling the milk from the carafe, then asked “Will there be anything else, sir?”
I wanted to say “Um, the other Weetabixes?” Instead, I said “No, thank you.”
Dapper Dan walked away.
My Weetabix was good, but it wasn’t a hot bowl of wheat for a hungry hockey player. Nor was a single Weetabix a filling meal. Nor was it worth $17, not even $17 Canadian dollars.