I was with a group of friends who decided they wanted ice cream. I rarely eat ice cream but went along. We went to Peter’s, an ice cream parlour popular in Vancouver years before fancy ice cream places took over with their gelati and whatnot. We sat at the counter. My friends ordered and feeling like I ought to have something I saw a stack of bananas on a shelf and decided I wouldn’t mind just having one of those. The waitress, an older woman with her hair piled up and with pencil and pad in hand took all the orders then got to me.
“I’ll just have a banana.”
“We don’t sell bananas.”
“What do you call those yellow things up there?”
“Those are for banana splits.”
“Well, just sell me one.”
“I can’t sell a banana. I wouldn’t know what to charge.”
“I’ll pay you a quarter. Banana’s probably worth a nickel or less.”
“No, can’t do it.” She’s starting to get peeved.
“How about I pay the price of a banana split . . . just give me the banana.”
“Listen, son. We don’t sell bananas. Now is there something else you would like?”
“Tell you what. Make me a banana split, okay?”
“Then shove everything off the banana and serve it to me.”
By now Flo or Doris or whatever she’s called is about ready to phone the police. Except she would never call the cops because she is in full possession of the extraordinary strength of her beliefs. Unlike my own universe, hers has order, certainty, and an unshakable confidence. I respect her for this. I even love her for it. She needs no help from the authorities.
“I can make you a banana split. But if I do you’re gonna eat it. Otherwise you can sit there till your friends leave.”
“Can you make me an egg cream?”
That was a good egg cream.
This actual conversation took place around 1966, four years before Five Easy Pieces with its famous chicken salad scene was made.
Tomorrow I’ll describe my encounter with the Unemployment Insurance Commission which inspired the famous Employment Office scene in Requiem for a Heavyweight.