Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pink Lemon Aid

I don't know if it's Murphy's Law or just my luck, but whenever I cut into a lemon, some of the juice will squirt into one of my eyes and cause excruciating pain. Big time. What synergy causes that liquid to always find a path leading directly to one of my eyes? What did I do wrong in life to be stung by a lemon? It's almost the same as when, on that one crucial day of a very important meeting, something will drip or splash onto my crisp, clean shirt, and create a nasty stain that will not come out - and there's no time to rush home to change it.

Years ago, I worked near a Cuban restaurant. Living in Florida, there are a lot of ethnic eateries scattered everywhere. Many are Hispanic and run the gamut from countries like Colombia, Peru and Argentina. Sure, there are plenty of Puerto Rican and Mexican places, but when I moved here in '81, I developed a penchant for Cuban bread. Many supermarkets sell it and I used to eat plenty more before I found out I was diabetic and had to cut back on my carbohydrates.

One morning, I stopped by that Cuban restaurant for a ham and egg sandwich on grilled Cuban bread. It was very tasty and rather inexpensive and it became habit forming, so I stopped there at least once or twice a week and sometimes, for lunch, too. They had one of the best Cuban sandwiches around. When you walk in the door, there was a counter to your right for ordering and beyond it, a counter to sit at and eat. There were also tables along the left side. Just when you walk in the door, there was an opening to the right of the ordering counter that led down a short hall and back to the kitchen. Along the wall was a solitary chair I had never seen there before. As I waited in line, a middle aged gentleman walked behind the counter and sat in the chair. I wondered what he was up to? A minute later, an elderly woman walked out of the kitchen and stood in front of him. She tilted his head back and used two fingers to keep one eye pried open. With her other hand, she took half a cut lemon and squeezed the juice into that eye.

"YEEOOWW," I exclaimed, "what was that for?" Why would anyone want to be tortured that way? Who would be stupid enough to allow someone to squeeze a lemon in their eye? There must be a reason, I thought. "Hello? Does anyone know why she did that?" No matter what I asked, it fell on deaf ears. I realized that I was probably the only English speaking person in the place. Finally, a voice sitting at the counter said two words.

"Pink eye."

"Pink eye?" I responded, but no one answered back. When my to go order was ready, I left and went to work. No one there wanted to believe me and no one had ever heard of such a thing. Occasionally, when I mention that event to someone from Puerto Rico or Cuba, I'm told it's an old folk remedy and some swear it really works. I'll take their word for it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Once, I spilled black beans down the front of my shirt, but interestingly, I've never, ever had pink eye. Maybe it's from lemon juice that's squirted in my eyes and antagonized me all my life. Maybe, it's not Murphy's Law after all. Murphy's Law probably has more to do with spilling something on your shirt right before a meeting. Hey! I wonder if it removes stains?

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