Her older sister failed the bar exam... not once... but three times.
The worst thing is, she has never let anyone in her family forget it.
The common refrain: How did you do so well in law school, but couldn't pass the bar exam?
Her answer? If I knew I wouldn't be sitting here; I'd be doing something important.
One evening, the sisters decided to go to the Italian restaurant down on the corner, not even a far drive, just a little family eatery with a reputation for homemade Italian pasta.
She could hear older sister sniff as they walked in. The dining room was nothing to look at, just vinyl checkered tablecloths, cheap utensils, and family portraits on the walls.
"Just relax and try to enjoy it," younger said to her. She seemed to have none of it, and they were seated by a young man in his thirties, wearing a white apron on his lower half.
"Where is my menu?" Older sister asked, rather, demanded.
"Right there, ma'am, right behind the sugar and salt."
Older sister put her face in her hands.
"Get over it," younger said, "and enjoy yourself."
She raised her head, took the menu, just a piece of printer paper, with items crossed out in pencil, new prices written down, and food stains that looked like red wine.
"You obviously have red wine!" Sister snapped at the waitress, a rough and tumble kind of woman, in her forties, dressed like she just came out of a thrift shop.
"We have a nice house wine, a Merlot, and we have a Cabernet."
"Out of a bottle?" Sister asked.
"No we buy box wine. It stays fresh longer."
"Oh! Okay! But sister ordered a Merlot, as younger did.
"This menu is a disgrace," sister exclaimed.
"This is a family restaurant," younger sister answered, "just go with it. Enjoy yourself." She could tell her older sister was not about to do that.
"Oh, alright, I'll order the spaghetti with homemade meat sauce. They can probably get that right."
The crazy thing is this little family restaurant was packed, people coming in for carry-out orders, people waiting in line for a table. Younger sister decided to count the tables in this small restaurant: 13, some seating two customers, some seating four.
Older sister could sense what younger sister was doing. "Yeh, so what do they do if they have a large party? Put the extras on the floor?"
The sister looked around, even turning around to look at the tables behind her. "They just pull tables together, that's all."
The box wine was served. Her sister seemed to enjoy it till, she was asked about it. "It's just alright, just okay, nothing special I could buy this in the supermarket if I wanted to."
"For five bucks a glass, what do you want?"
Dinner came. Two order of spaghetti with meat sauce. Younger sister thanked the waitress. Older sister cried out... and loud! "What is this, this leaf, on the edge of the plate. What are they serving me?"
Other customers looked and stared.
Younger sister was embarrassed, and felt her face blush red.
"I don't know what that is, I'm not Italian," the younger said.
Neither sister could cook, little more than the morning's oatmeal.
"Take a picture of it... get your smartphone out!"
Younger sister did, and snapped a good shot of this hard green leaf on her older sister's plate.
Older sister stood up, indignant. "Waitress! Waitress! NOW!"
"You are being really rude."
Older sister persisted.
The waitress ran to the table.
"What?" Older sister said, pointing to the green leaf on the edge of her plate.
"That is a bay leaf. The cook uses it in her cooking, for flavor."
"Well," older sister sniffed, "I want to see the cook."
The waitress left, and younger sister saw her talking to the young thirty something manager, who promptly disappeared into the kitchen.
Shortly, a very short woman appeared at the sisters' table, standing no more than five feet, wearing an apron splattered with tomato sauce, and speaking no English.
"What did she just say," older sister demanded.
Suddenly the thirty something man who seated them showed up. "This is my grandmother. She is from Italy. Her English, it's not so good."
Older sister pointed to the green bay leaf.
"Oh, the man said, I am so sorry. Grandma uses that to give flavor to her pasta sauce. I will ask her to make you another dish." And grandma and grandson left the table.
"See," older sister said, "You have to hold these people accountable."
Younger sister said, "Well, why don't you sue them?"
It was a joke.
Older sister stood up and said, "That is exactly what I am going to do. I am not going to pay for this, and I am leaving."
Trouble was, she was driving, so younger sister had no choice but to get up and leave with her.
Over the noise of people eating, talking, and laughing, older sister yelled: "I'm going to sue for that!"
The grandson - manager seemed baffled, standing outside the kitchen holding her new dish.
"You are being a total jerk," younger sister said.
"No... I am going to put my law degree to good use. Just you watch."
Weeks passed and the restaurant was served notice to appear in small claims court.
The judge, a middle-aged man, bald as a basketball, wearing glasses at the end of his nose, seemed baffled.
"Ma'am, you certainly have a right to bring a claim in this court. But why over a simple food seasoning, a simple bay leaf?
Older sister stood. "It was not listed on the menu in the ingredients. Period."
"Oh, I see," the judge said. He reached for a piece of paper. "I did a little research on this thing called a bay leaf. There is not a culture in this world, that does not use some form of bay leaf for seasoning. The Mediterranean. Brazil. India. The United States, Italy. Turkey. It is not to be eaten, but adds aromatic flavor to the dish. Yes, it is to be removed before the dish is presented. The fact that the cook, this lady sitting over here, used a bay leaf in your spaghetti sauce begets her good judgment, cooking skills, and desire to please her customers. In this case that customer was you."
Older sister seemed taken aback. She grew silent, her indignant attitude turned trivial, her tongue rolling around her teeth like a wet seal that made some in the courtroom giggle.
The judge motioned toward the cook, the old Italian woman who spoke no English. "If this lady is guilty of anything, it is going the extra distance to put a plate of spaghetti in front of you that transports the flavors of her native country - Italy - to your table for..." the judge clumsily read from a tattered menu..."for the pricey sum of eleven dollars and ninety five cents." The judge leaned forward and stared at the older sister. "You try to bring the flavors of Italy to your family table for $11.95." He continued to stare until older sister said, "I withdraw my lawsuit."
At home older sister sat sullen. The TV was on, but her stare was blank.
Younger sister: "Maybe you need to get over the lawyer thing."
Older sister's head dropped. "I just can't seem to let it go."
Younger sister went back to the restaurant a couple of days later and paid for the meals they had walked out on. It dawned on her: The family that owned the restaurant didn't even bring that up in small claims court.
Grandson took her money and thanked her. Younger sister glanced toward the kitchen where grandma, the cook was standing, holding a mixing bowl.
The Italian grandma who was the restaurant's cook, smiled, and simply winked.
Younger sister said to herself: Got it!