Earlier today, I went grocery shopping for my friend, Vanessa. As I carried the sacks into the apartment, setting them on the kitchen floor, Vanessa unloaded them and put things away.
“Uh oh,” she said, as I carried the last bag inside, closing the door behind me. She was standing in the kitchen, the refrigerator door wide open.
“What’s that?” I asked, trudging into the kitchen.
“Did you follow the list I made for you?” she asked, frowning at a carton in her hand.
“Of course I followed the list,” I said. “I always follow the list.”
“So you’re aware that my lists are detailed and specific and denote exactly what to buy?” Vanessa asked.
“Exactly. And that’s why I follow them to the letter. I know I’m not allowed to think for myself when I’m grocery shopping. That’s why you always give me a list.”
“I don’t think you followed the list,” Vanessa said, extending her arm. She was holding a container of ice cream.
“Ice cream was on the list!” I said. “I remember that specifically, because it was one of the last items I bought. I didn’t want it to melt in this heat.”
“But what kind of ice cream did I specify?” Vanessa asked. “Do you remember?”
“Of course I remember. It was vanilla.”
“Not the variety. The brand. What brand of ice cream did I specify on the list?”
I frowned. “I … I don’t recall that you specified a brand.”
“Yes I did,” Vanessa said. “And this is not the ice cream I requested.”
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
“Check the list,” Vanessa said. “Go on.”
“I intend to do just that.” I reached into my front pocket and unfolded a piece of paper.
“Hurry up,” Vanessa said. “The evidence is starting to melt.”
“The ice cream,” Vanessa said. “I’m submitting this container of ice cream to the court as Exhibit A. It proves that you don’t listen to me or follow directions.”
“Are you serious?” I said. “I do too follow directions!”
“Then what does it say on the list?”
“It says Dreyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream,” I said, pointing to the list. I handed it to her. “Here. See for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“I do believe you,” Vanessa said. “I know, because that’s what I wrote. But that’s not the ice cream you bought.”
I frowned. “It’s not?”
“Nope.” Vanessa held up the container of melting evidence for me to examine. “Check it out. What does it say?”
I squinted, reading. “Breyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream.”
“Exactly,” Vanessa said. “Breyer’s. The list specifically stated Dreyer’s, and you purchased Breyer’s.”
I stared at her, my mouth hanging open. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“The evidence speaks for itself,” Vanessa said. “It’s right there in blue ink on the list, written in my tidy handwriting. I requested Dreyer’s, and you purchased Breyer’s. This is proof positive that you don’t follow directions or have an eye for detail.”
“What is the difference between Breyer’s and Dreyer’s?” I asked. “Ice cream is ice cream!”
“Breyer’s is fine,” Vanessa said. “I would never knock Breyer’s. I think they’re a great company that sells a wonderful variety of refreshing products. It’s just that I personally prefer Dreyer’s.”
“I feel like I’ve been set up,” I said. “How am I supposed to tell the difference between Breyer’s and Dreyer’s? They sound exactly alike!”
“For starters,” Vanessa said, “you could read the list I wrote.”
“This is ridiculous,” I said. “I can’t be faulted for confusing the two. My cart was full, and I was trying to hurry.”
“So now your story is changing? First you were following directions to the letter, and now you’re saying your attention was compromised because you were trying to hurry?”
“You did this on purpose,” I said.
Vanessa set down the ice cream and crossed her arms. “Did not. This just demonstrates that you’re a typical man who can’t read and who doesn’t follow instructions.”
“Let me see that list,” I snarled, snatching it back from her. I scoured the contents. “Ah-ha!”
“Ah-ha what?” Vanessa said, frowning.
“You set me up, and I can prove it. Your ‘D’ looks suspiciously like a ‘B.’”
“That’s ridiculous,” Vanessa said. “My handwriting is impeccable. Even a laser printer doesn’t have that neat of a script.”
“I disagree,” I said. “I think the deciding letter is deliberately vague. The ‘eyer’s’ part I can make out just fine. There’s no question on that front. But is that a ‘B’ or a ‘D’? Hmm. I can’t quite tell. It appears that particular letter is open to interpretation.”
“Now you’re just grasping for arguments because you have no defense,” Vanessa said.
“I do too have a defense. In fact, I’d like to submit this grocery list to the court as Exhibit B. It’ll be the determining factor in the verdict, when the judge sides with me over you.”
“Speaking of evidence, I better get this ice cream into the freezer before it melts completely,” Vanessa said, grabbing the container off the counter.
“So you’re going to condescend to eat the Breyer’s?” I asked.
“Well, it’s too late to take it back, isn’t it? Besides, as I said, I don’t mind Breyer’s. I’m not going to get into an argument over which brand is better. It’s just that, given the choice — and if a certain someone could be counted on to buy the right product — I prefer Dreyer’s.”
“You know,” I said, as Vanessa and I started to put away the rest of the groceries, “we wouldn’t have this issue if we lived east of the Rockies.”
“Nope. Because east of the Rockies, Dreyer’s goes by Edy’s. They’re the same product, but they go by different names depending where you are in the country.”
“How in the world do you know that?” Vanessa asked.
I shrugged. “Everyone knows that.”
“I didn’t know that, and I’m a loyal Dreyer’s customer.”
“It’s just one of those things that everyone knows, sort of like how Best Foods Mayonnaise is Hellman’s Mayonnaise depending on where you are in the country.”
“OK, Vanessa said, “I’m confused. Your story is changing.”
“My story is changing?”
“That’s right. I’m detecting an inconsistency in your narrative. First, you claimed that you didn’t know the difference between Breyer’s and Dreyer’s. But now all of a sudden, you’re a brand expert who knows that Dreyer’s is called Edy’s on the East Coast.” Vanessa frowned. “I smell a rat.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Gimme that list!” Vanessa said, lunging for me. She unfolded the paper and scoured the contents. “Oh my goodness. I don’t believe it.”
“What?” I asked, frowning.
“This list is doctored! My handwriting has been tampered with! You changed my ‘D’ to a ‘B’!”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
She shoved the list in my face. “Am I? Am I? I bet you changed the list, knowing full well the difference between Breyer’s and Dreyer’s!”
“That’s a completely outrageous accusation with no basis in reality!” I said. “Now who’s grasping for arguments?”
“I admit I lack sufficient proof, but knowing your penchant for pranks — and now knowing your advanced knowledge of brand marketing — it’s a totally rational allegation. I think you tampered with the list to make the ‘B’ look like a ‘D.’”
“You mean to make the ‘D’ look like a ‘B,’” I said.
Vanessa glowered. “Whatever.”
“You’ve gone too far!” I said, raising a finger in the air. “I will not stand here after shopping all morning and be accused of falsifying documents!”
Vanessa looked at me. After a moment, she said, “Are we really arguing about ice cream?”
“Well, you started it,” I said.
She sighed. “We have some serious issues, don’t we?”
“Well,” I said, “you do.”
Without saying anything, we both continued to unload the grocery sacks and put things away.
“Hey!” Vanessa said, pulling something out of the last sack. “What’s this?”
She held up a container of Dreyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream.
I grinned. “Are you finally convinced that I can follow directions?”
Vanessa stared at me, her mouth open. “You did this on purpose?”
“I just wanted to prove to you that I do have an eye for detail,” I said. “And besides, I personally prefer Breyer’s over Dreyer’s. Or Edy’s, depending on where you live.”
I smiled at her. “So, what do you think?”
Vanessa’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I think I’m going to kick your butt to the east of the Rockies.”