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Syndic Literary Journal


What Does Wine Taste Like?

By LeRoy Chatfield

Whenever a bellhop asks me if I need help with my bags, I say, no thank you, I can manage.

When a box clerk or store checker ask me if I need help out to the car, I say, no thank you, I can manage.

 Yes!  I do believe I can manage these things. I can walk, I can carry, I can lift. Why do I need help?  Do I look that old?  Others in the grocery line certainly look like they need help –  maybe some day I will too –  but in the meantime:  no thank you, I can manage.

How then did I find myself  being helped to my car by a young Latina woman who works at Raley’s, a major chain store  headquartered in the Sacramento area? On this particular  day, I had selected  12 bottles of wine, placed them in the store-available six-pack carry-0ut containers,  and presented myself to the store checker for payment. I was eligible for a  30% discount for buying a minimum of six bottles. She rang me up, gave me the discount, collected my money, and said: you know, these carry-out containers have been known to break when being carried to the car, and if a bottle should break, we cannot give you a refund. To be on the safe side, why don’t you let the box clerk help you out?  I thought for a minute:  this would definitely  be a violation of my long held belief that I could manage. But what if a bottle did break,  or God forbid, two bottles,  I would not get a refund and this wine is not cheap! OK, I said, she can help me out to the car.

I led the way. The young Latina girl – was she 17 or as old as 19? – pushed the cart with my newly purchased six pack carry cases of wine followed close behind. As we approached my pickup parked on the far side of the lot, she came up close by my side and said very softly: Mister, what does wine taste like? Caught off guard,  I hesitated and thought for a few seconds . . . Christ! what does wine taste like? I had to come up with something. Well, I said, it is not sweet. Is it strong? she asked. No, it is not strong but it is a taste you have to get used to.  Jesus, I thought: what a lame answer!  What DOES wine taste like?

I opened the pickup door, she safely deposited the two six pack carry cases onto the seat, and hesitated. Now what, I thought, is she expecting a tip for helping me out? I thought  box clerks were not supposed to be tipped – at least that is the conventional wisdom. Or is she still  waiting for me to explain what wine tastes like? I bit the bullet: thank you very much! Have a nice day, she said, as she wheeled the cart away.

All the way home, I asked myself: what in the hell does wine taste like? 

The lesson of this story: unless you want to be confronted with unanswerable questions posed by the young and  innocent, don’t  violate your long held beliefs like I did,  just say: no thank you, I can manage. 

But wait! There is  more!  I did find the  answer to her question:  Mister, what does wine taste like?

Months later, thanks to the clerk half my age at Berman’s Liquors on the Lexington side of the Arlington border, I have my answer. He too offered to carry my wine purchases to the car but I was wary and told him why. I asked him how he would answer  the young woman’s question, “what does wine taste like?” 

Oh, that’s easy, he said, “wine tastes as pretty as you look.”

Why couldn’t I have said that?  Not in a million years, but that is another and very long story.







Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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