A while ago, Joe wrote about his most embarrassing travel mistake. I never paid back the favor with my own embarrassing travel story but hey, why not? Just as his embarrassing trip had to do with Japan, so is mine, albeit a different situation, and in fact, an entirely different trip.
Background information: I am a self-admitted coffee snob. It needs to be the right flavor, the right color, have the right amount of sweetener, not be too old, etc., or I’ll say, “ew.” I’ll still drink it, but I won’t enjoy it and I’ll probably b**ch and moan the whole time ;-). Life got a whole lot better when Starbucks spread to practically everywhere and instead of asking for a “medium coffee, very, very light and very, very sweet” (can you tell I’m from NYC?) and hoping it’d come out OK, I could ask for a “tall blonde in a grande cup” and then add the sweetener and dairy stuff myself so it’d be perfect.
But this story happened in Japan in 2009, while we were staying at a ryokan (Japanese B&B, but they give you breakfast AND dinner…or at least the places where we stayed did) in the middle of nowhere. There was no Starbs to save me.
So it was breakfast time at the ryokan and and the meal in our room included fried eggs, Vienna sausages, a variety of breads and spreads, OJ, coffee and salad and soup (salad and soup with breakfast is a very “Japanese” thing. The soup was cream of something…not bad though…actually comforting, since it was so cold in the room!). The coffee came with 2 teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy creamers, but since this wasn’t the first time I had been through a situation like this in Japan, I was prepared and had looked up how to ask for more, in my Japanese-English dictionary. So when the server lady came in, I said, “Mo sukoshi miru-ku, kudasai?” (“A little more milk, please?”), with my best deer-in-the-headlights look (I should just patent “that” look by now, for all the times I’ve successfully used it on international trips where I didn’t speak the language). She smiled and said…something…in Japanese (I strongly hoped it was “Sure sweetie, hold on just a sec and I’ll go and get you a decent amount!”), then left. And after some anticipation-filled minutes (did she understand me and would she come back?) my Milk Savior returned!…with 2 more teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy creamers. So now instead of a half ounce, I had maybe about an ounce of the white stuff. Tops. And to add insult to injury, it turned out that IT WASN’T EVEN MILK! It was non-dairy creamer! Grosser than gross, even worse than celery! Needless to say, I bought a canned ko-hee (Japanese word for coffee – they sell canned coffee in vending machines just about everywhere) that morning.
But we still had one more breakfast to go.
So I got smart and at dinner that night I asked Haruko, the girl who served us our evening meal (she spoke a smattering of English so it was much easier to communicate with her than the woman who had given us our breakfast) if I could get real milk somewhere (we had a fridge in the room). She said they sold it in the ryokan’s gift shop. I checked and saw they had larger containers (about 8oz) and smaller ones (about 4oz). I double checked with Haruko and she said the smaller ones were yogurt. OK, no problem, I’d get a larger one.
So I went to buy the milk and saw that different containers had different caps – the brown capped one had brown-colored milk so I figured it must be chocolate and the other two had white milk and either a blue or a red cap. I couldn’t read the labels but I figured blue was skim milk cuz that what it was at home, so I got a bottle of the red capped milk, because hey, I’m on VACATION so the calories and fat of what must be whole milk don’t count, right?
The next morning, breakfast started. I put my milk in my coffee, took a sip and it just tasted…wrong. It was way too sweet and seemed to have an almost…sour(?)…aftertaste. So I ask Joe to try it – he took a sip and said the coffee tasted fine. OK, maybe it’s just me. So we finished the meal and since he knows I don’t like to drink milk by itself, Joe started to drink the leftover milk straight from the bottle. Hmm…. He told me to try it, so I did. It tasted like…berries? Joe went downstairs while we finished packing and when he came up, he said he checked with the girl in the gift shop.
Apparently, I had bought strawberry milk.
The brown capped one was chocolate milk, the blue capped one was regular milk, and the red capped one was strawberry milk.
So I had put strawberry milk into my coffee.
So there you have it, y’all. Just because something is one way where you live, don’t assume it’s the same way everywhere. If you do, you may wind up with a mouthful of strawberry-flavored coffee. Trust me…it’s pretty gross!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary