Exit Norms 2/25/23

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Nobody will ever think of me as a geek again now that I have an 1,800 square inch chalkboard in my home office! Okay, they will, but honestly, that’s just fine with me.

I’ve always been kind of an oddball, but of late, I’ve been working hard to break the societal norms of what I’m “supposed” to do and just live my life the way I want to live it. Kathy is my friend, a black haired deep blue-eyed petite beauty from the east coast and surprisingly kind to me. Today, she is married to Ron, and was never interested in me, but Lord I was interested in her. Once I realized that I honestly had no chance, I gave up. Once I realized that the best I could do was “friend”, I decided that was okay and that I preferred having her as a friend than not having her in my life at all. Anyway, because I stopped pushing, I did land some “dates” with her, once she felt safe with me, including one where we went to a local restaurant near the University where we met.

For the first time in my life, I tried French Market Onion Soup. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a baked soup, a beef broth based onion soup, with bread or croutons in the soup and Gruyere cheese on top baked to a golden brown. And it was delicious. I mean simply amazing. I did ask Kathy for permission before doing so, but I summoned our server and asked for a second bowl.

She was stunned. “You realize you’ll have to pay for a second bowl, right?” I reassured her that I did understand that and wanted the second bowl anyway. Have you ever had the audacity to ask for seconds on anything in a restaurant? There is a well-known Italian restaurant chain that is trying to make seconds common on things like their soup, but this was long before even they started doing that. I’m very thankful for how forgiving Kathy was, being drawn into the gravitational field of this odd behavior, and it was terrific.

On my social media page, I posed a question. Assume you ordered a bowl of French Market Onion Soup, and an entrée for supper, but they forgot the soup. If you still want the soup, would you (A) tell them to forget the soup and take it off of the ticket, (B) have them deliver the soup and eat it with the entrée, (C) return the entrée so the kitchen can keep it warm and start with the soup, or (D) ask that the soup be delivered once you’ve finished the entrée? This wasn’t a random exercise. In fact, it had happened that same day to me. By now, you should know that I’m something of a freak, so yes, I broke the societal norm and asked the server to bring the soup after I had finished the entrée. I still wanted the soup, and it seemed the most logical solution to prevent the soup or entrée from going cold as I ate. I wasn’t upset at the server, it was just a simple oversight and he had stepped up for the server that was supposed to be mine but hadn’t arrived yet, so how could I be angry? In fact, I even left him an overly generous tip before leaving.

But societal norms means that I should have either just canceled the soup, or had it delivered immediately. But both of these “normal” decisions would either deprive me of the soup, which I really wanted, or caused something to go cold as I ate. Neither “normal” decision seemed acceptable to me, so I broke the norm to do what I wanted. And, yes, I’m sure the server (who probably felt bad already) thought I was very odd.

Anti-norm behavior for me really took root when I started attending Renaissance fairs. My “home fair” is in Sioux Falls, and I continued to attend even when I was living in Rapid City, a five mile drive. The fair wrapped up about six in the evening on Sunday, and I usually worked on Monday. So, I would hop in the car and drive straight, getting home somewhere between midnight and one in the morning. I arrived at the fair on Sunday in full garb, my car already packed and ready to go, and with the amount of time the drive was I certainly didn’t get out of garb before leaving.

On the drive, I would stop for a snack halfway home to stretch my legs and wake up a bit. This adds up to me walking into an all-night diner still dressed in my garb, and I loved it. This was certainly not normal clothes, and frankly I enjoyed looking shocked when somebody asked me if I’m coming from a Renaissance fair. “Why would you ask that?”

We are, all of us, unique and individual people. It’s MY belief that the greater we acknowledge that there are ways that we are not common, and embrace that strangeness, the happier we, all of us, will be. Heck, I’m writing a blog, a rather odd and old-fashioned thing to do, and you are reading it which is also odd. So, yes, I love my chalkboard. There. I said it.


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