I spent a night and a day at the Marriott hotel in Uniondale L.I. (I think that’s where it was) for my father’s 85th birthday.
I took my camera with me, but didn’t feel like taking any pictures because I always get in trouble by not giving the pictures back to everyone, so I left it in the bag. And frankly, looking out the window of the Marriott at the parking lot, didn’t see anything that seemed worth shooting (though years ago I would have).
At any rate, one of my sisters brought a selection of cheese cake from a fine Brooklyn bakery, and at the end of a so-so dinner (I said it was fine, but it was so-so) the cheese-cake platter was put out and this was something great. Let’s see, there was plain cheese-cake, chocolate cheese cake, cherry cheese cake, marble cheese cake, crumbs on top cheese cake, and cheese cake with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. Two creamy wedges of each.
Much more than we could eat at one sitting.
So when we had had our fill, there was still about six perfect wedges left, and after my father had made his usual speech about how there are poor people in the world and how we all have a duty to help them and how lucky we all are to not be wanting – he suggested that we give what was left to the table of people next to us (who also didn’t seem to be in want of anything but cheesecake).
I chirped in that that was not a good idea. If no one at our table wanted the cheese cake, I would take it and put in my fridge and eat one of them a day when I got home.
This was heresy. I was accused of selfishness. I was attacked for only thinking of myself and my own desire for cheese cake.
But I argued that we didn’t know anything about those people. They could be Republicans for all we knew. No go. They were strangers in need of cheesecake.
I sometimes think they don’t realize that I don’t inhabit their safe middle class world. I don’t go out and buy cheese cake like that for myself very often, and probably was the poorest person at the family table. I’ve noticed, that in this do-gooder world, it’s always the other that is the recipient of charity. I know cases where millionaires neglect their own relatives to give away oodles of money to people they’ve never seen. I put up a mighty fight for the cheese cake until I saw it was a losing battle.
My father was selected to bring the cheesecake to the other table and offered it to them and they gladly accepted it. Later, when the meal ended, about ten of them approached my father with congratulations on his birthday and many thanks for the cheese cake offering.
Everyone looked over at me, and said – you see. That’s appreciation. That’s what can happen if you feed strangers. (Yeah, a bunch of poor people staying at the Uniondale Mariott). But they were all aglow with their good deed.
In the morning we ate at the buffet. I wasn’t hungry and only had two mini-bagels with butter but was charged $17.95. (True, my father picked up the tab for breakfast, but I called the waitress over to ask about the charge, and was told I had used the buffet and that was the price). Sad but true. They got me.
My room, btw – was $178 for one night. It was a beautiful room with a beautiful view of the parking lot. A nice clean double-bed. ($19 a day if you want to plug in to their broadband connection).
I went back to my room and looked around to see what I could pillage. A couple of sheets, all the perfumeries I could find, and a few pens. I was in a black mood. I was thinking of some millionaires I know who contribute to every charity under the sun – but I know their children – and some of them are in dire need. (No, I’m not talking about myself here, but of other relatives).
On the ride back, I was talking about it with my sister and was reminded that I was always ungenerous about my food. As a kid, it was a big treat to go out to the local deli and I would return to the house with a sandwich – and secrete it in my room. If I didn’t do this, then everyone in the family wanted a piece of it.
My sister told me that this tendency has only gotten worse lately. And that’s true. It’s easy to share when you have much.
I came back with a bad feeling. Have I really become a selfish person, now that my money is low. Was I that way when I had money? (No. I bought tons of very expensive gifts for people in those days and gave money to everyone that asked for it on the street). But the holes in my security net are getting larger.
A few weeks ago – out we went for a pizza dinner at a good restaurant. When the meal was over – I asked the waiter to put the few slices in a doggie bag. I was asked if I was really going to eat that pizza the next day. Absolutely, I said. And into the microwave the following day. Delicious.
I know that people read this blog and the grass looks green over here. Living your dream and all that. True. Very true. But take my word for it – there’s a price to be paid for freedom. And it isn’t always pretty.