It Came Out Vanilla


by Scott Daniel // October 11, 2010

The Rolling Stones absolutely had it right.  You can’t always get what you want.  Example: in 1993, I wrote a personal 80-year timeline for a school project, then sealed the timeline in a shoe-box time capsule.  If I recall correctly, in this alternate timeline, I am an all-star third baseman for the three-time World Champion California Angels and live in a sprawling Laguna Beach mansion with my wife, Kelly Kapowski.  In the universe we know, I am writing this post in the closet of my best friend’s New York apartment while he and his girlfriend watch downloaded episodes of The A Team.  I’m also technically bald and live with my mother.  But I do have a bobble-head doll of Troy Percival holding a 2002 World Series trophy.  So, mission accomplished.

And it’s not merely in the big things that we fail to get what we truly want.  You may wander in a residual drunken stupor into a New York McDonald’s in the hopes of acquiring a strawberry milkshake.  Deal with it.  You’re getting vanilla.

There’s technically nothing wrong with vanilla if that’s what you ordered.  Sometimes you need something smooth without too much kick.  Sometimes you need to date a girl with no personality.  To each his own.  But Teo ordered a strawberry milkshake.  Damn it.

It’s 10:34 a.m. Sunday morning.  My friends Teo, Barry and I stagger from my best friend’s apartment through Lower Manhattan toward the McDonald’s on Water Street near the Staten Island Ferry.  Objective: obtain a 20-piece box of Chicken McNuggets and, hell, some milkshakes.  The previous evening we waged total war on our minds and bodies at a series of New York bars.  The reports coming in suggest that we won that war, as evidenced by the following recollections I have:

Bits and pieces periodically resurface.  Mostly Caucasian dancing with occasional eye contact, a verbal tirade against an NBC programming executive on what I expertly perceive as the weaknesses of Gupta’s character in Outsourced, and “weight loss”.  We are now a sorry lot.  Our electrolytes in dire need of replenishing, we three approach the counter.

Breakfast only.  Damn.  No McNuggets until 11.  Scenes from Falling Down play in my mental cinema.  Screw it.  We’ll take six Sausage McMuffins instead.  But we can still get the milkshakes.  Sweet.  Two strawberries, please, and I’ll have a chocolate.  Here’s a twenty.  Your change, sir.  Thanks.

We settle into the back of the lobby, a stone’s throw from the condiments, to wait.  My left hand trembles from the night’s malfeasance.  A bead of saltless sweat forms at the bridge of my nose.   Might not make it.

Ten minutes pass.  Where the –censored– are our milkshakes?  Ah, there she is.  She’s got three shakes in her arms.  Those are ours.

“Chocolate,” she says as she hands me mine.  “One strawberry,” handing it to Barry.

Teo stands anxiously.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, like a doctor preparing to announce a botched surgery.  “This one came out vanilla.”


“Yes, I’m sorry, this one is vanilla.”

I’m not going to bother going into a detailed analysis of the statement, “it came out vanilla”, except to note that I witnessed a McDonald’s employee duck responsibility by assigning moral agency to a soft-serve ice cream dispenser.  I’m guessing she is a graduate of the Donald Rumsfeld School of Obfuscation.  Either way, a crime has been committed, either by the employee or the ice cream machine…we’ll never really know.

In the end, Teo opted to fall on the flavor grenade and accept the vanilla shake.  Sometimes you have to pick your battles.  In the art of war, you must know when to attack, when to retreat and when to surrender.  My brother-in-arms sacrificed his palate for the good of the platoon.  A few minutes later, the same woman re-emerged with our Sausage McMuffins.  We left the store in triumph.  Teo distributes our breakfast sandwiches as we return to the apartment.  Finally, some solid food…

“There is no God damn egg on this Sausage McMuffin!!!!!”

Photo courtesy of CafePress.


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  1. #1 by Oma Carlisi on October 11, 2010 - 12:45 pm

    What’s wrong with Vanilla? I love Vanilla. It’s good and stable, tastes good and implies normality. What we really need in this world is normal, but I don’t think we’re going to get it, unfortunately. If I could go back 50 years, I might be able to aspire to that, but at this point in my life, it’s anything but vanilla.

  2. #2 by Scott Daniel on October 27, 2010 - 9:46 am

    There’s nothing wrong with vanilla…unless you asked for strawberry.

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