Complaining about free ice cream

I was enjoying reading this post today and got down to the comments where Anonymous complained about quality of the post. I was shocked! Complain about free ice cream?!? Never!

Then I thought about it for a minute and realized that I have actually complained about free ice cream before. I’m not proud of it but maybe it can provide a lesson or two for Anonymous.

Work took me to a Scandinavian country a couple of years ago for some training. The company kept us well fed during the week that we were there. At the end of a very nice meal in a wonderful restaurant with about 20 of my colleagues, our host announced that dessert would be ice cream. Our host also told us what flavor the ice cream was but between the adult beverages during the meal and the funny story that my neighbor Bob was telling, I didn’t catch the flavor.

The staff started serving the ice cream at the far end of the table. I noticed how much my coworkers were enjoying it as Bob was wrapping up his story. Desserts at previous meals out had been real treats – sometimes very different from anything I’d ever had before but always very good.

Finally it was our turn and Bob and I both took a big bite at the same time. I have never licked a freshly paved asphalt street but I imagine that the taste sensation would be about the same. Bob and I sat poised there for a moment, spoons still in our mouths and trying hard not to shudder. As I looked around the table, I saw that most of the people with us were happily devouring the nastiest flavored ice cream I could have ever imagined.

Bob leaned over and hissed, “What is this crap?” I shrugged while taking a quick slug of very strong coffee. I was disappointed that it did not wash the taste of petroleum out of my mouth.

I looked to my right and noticed that Sven was one of the diners enjoying his ice cream so I asked, “Sven, I’ve never had anything quite like this. What is the flavor?” I had to have Sven repeat himself a couple of times before I realized that it was TAR flavored ice cream.

I passed that along to Bob. We sat in stunned silence for a moment.

“Bob,” I finally said. “Do you realize that you can tell who the Scandinavians are just by how much ice cream is left on their plate?”

It was true. None of the North Americans had eaten more than a bite. Other Europeans hadn’t eaten any more but the Scandinavians were practically licking their plates clean.

I spent the rest of the meal silently trying to imagine why any sane person would ever have tried to flavor perfectly good ice cream with TAR. I didn’t ask any of the Scandinavians. That would have just made me the Ugly American.

So what could Anonymous learn from this story? First, never criticize the flavor of the free ice cream someone is serving up. It’s free. It’s ice cream. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like the flavor. Snarky criticisms about the flavor of the ice cream are just rude and make you seem boorish. Sure, if someone has committed the equivalent of walking out of the wash room with the tail of his shirt sticking out of the fly of his pants, say something. Otherwise, just keep your thoughts to yourself.

Second, I mentioned that some of the other desserts we had were really great. Why not take the opportunity to let your host know that you liked them instead of slamming the one you didn’t?

That’s all. I’ve got to go now to see if there’s any ice cream in the freezer.

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