“Patat zonder alstublieft,” I asked the girl behind the counter of the train station snack bar.
There was a brief look of confusion that flashed across her face.
“Patat zonder,” she repeated in a way that suggested the words felt strange coming out of her mouth.
It was a reaction I had become use to. The Dutch are deeply confused by anyone who would want to order fries without mayonnaise. I think they sometimes forget that the two can exist independently of each other.
Since I didn’t do anything to correct my order (even after the rather obvious pause she had left) she turned around and started to scoop up some fries. A moment later she turned around again with them in a little cardboard container. I reached out to take them but she had already automatically moved towards the mayonnaise dispenser, either out of habit or out of the strong belief that I really did want or needed mayonnaise.
“Wilt u mayonaise?” she asked, her hand hovering just above the mayonnaise plunger.
Could she really have forgotten my mayonnaise free request already? Was she blocking it out? Was she unable to mental process it? Or was she simply waiting for me to correct my earlier mistake? It was one of the strangest Mexican stand offs I have ever been in.
“Nee dank u,” I replied quickly (and slightly too loudly) before it was too late. I was sure she had been about to push the plunger.
The girl looked deeply confused by my response. Why didn’t I want mayonnaise? Didn’t I like it? Was that kind of thing even possible? Luckily for me she managed to come to terms with my decision and slowly put my fries up on the counter.
I handed over the money, surprised that she didn’t automatically charge me the extra 20 cents for mayonnaise in her confusion.
“Fijne avond,” she wished me as she returned my change.
“Fijne avond,” I wished her, hoping that she would recover from this traumatic experience.
As I turned around and started to walk away with my mayonnaise free fries I heard the next person in the queue step up to the counter and place their order.
“Patat met alstublieft.”
Balance was restored once again.