Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Want to know what I hate more than anything else in the world?

(*if you've ever eaten out with me you may already know the answer)

A few years ago, my friend Neil and I spent three months backpacking across South America. We hiked to the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, played football on the beach at Copacabana and even danced the tango in Buenos Aires. (Okay, that last bit is a lie. In Buenos Aires we took a guided tour of Boca Juniors’ football stadium, during which the only two words I understood were “Diego” and “Maradona”.)

The point is that, on our travels, we ate out quite a bit. In fact, if you consider that we had breakfast, lunch and dinner at a cafe or restaurant each day, we probably clocked up about 270 meals in three months. Allow an average of 15 minutes waiting for each meal to arrive, factor in the paucity of English language newspapers in the region, and that adds up to a 67½ hour period during which I had nothing else to do but ruminate upon the rituals of eating out.

What really began to irritate me during this time (and this phenomenon isn’t by any means unique to South America) were those annoying plastic sachets that condiments are served in. My dislike of these plastic sauce pouches started out as a mild sort of pet peeve, the type of thing one might casually toss into Paul Merton’s Room 101. But after three months, my feelings toward them became steadily darker and more pathological.

Sachets are infuriatingly messy, first of all. When the ketchup or mayonnaise comes squirting out, some portion thereof is practically guaranteed to end up somewhere that it shouldn’t: on your shirt sleeve, in your coffee cup or all over that copy of Los Tiempos you’ve been struggling to decipher. (‘Morales to EEUU: My Hovercraft is Full of Eels’!?)

More odious again are the tinfoil butter sachets you get at breakfast. It’s very being would appear to rule out the existence of a benevolent God.

I mean, what are you supposed to do with this disgusting item once you’ve finished using it? Leave it on your dinner plate? Deposit it on the enamel table top, for your elbows to become smeared in its greasy entrails?

Then there’s is the underlying message. What the proprietor who serves these to you is essentially saying is, I don’t trust you not to steal from me. I don’t trust you not to swipe my butter tub (or ketchup jar, mustard jar or carton of crappy UHT milk).

It’s true that there are no guarantees in this life. But by the end of the trip I was ready to fall on my knees and beg the restaurant and cafe proprietors of South America: Please, in the name of God… take a chance on me.

At the end of our holiday, Neil and I visited the Iguazu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border. The Lonely Planet suggested splashing out on a meal at the local Sheraton Hotel. It would cost us a hefty US$70, the book said. But with the Argentinean economy in such dire straits, this was the cheapest place in the world to eat food of that calibre.

I was initially reluctant. Seventy dollars on a single dinner? In backpacking terms, this was the equivalent of hiring a private jet and flying to Vegas.

But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So we dug out the best shirts and trousers from the bottom of our rucksacks and headed along. As we sat enjoying the spectacular view of the falls, Neil drew my attention to the white porcelain jar at the centre of the table. I did a shocked double take. It fucking couldn’t be…

It was.

My facial expression at that precise moment, he later told me, reminded him of nothing so much as the climactic scene in the Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston stumbles upon the ruins of the Statue of Liberty sunken in the sands.

May 16th, 2010.

12 Responses to “Want to know what I hate more than anything else in the world?”

  1. austic stacks gay club Says:

    a paper scissors at the table,you could even put it on a rope like they do in the bank.if they had that in restaurants we’d all be happier.you should see my house-it’s the future.gq esquire id they wouldn’t get a look in.it has a shower,mirrors,you can shave,spray,towels.

  2. Eoin Says:

    Dan, I still haven’t gotten around to reading your epic comment on the Vanity Fair post. When I’ve done that I’ll attempt to figure out what the fuck you’re on about here.

  3. There is only one rule in selecta and this is tippa irie Says:

    Austin stacks are a team paulie gualtieri would have faced many times,
    i wouldn’t be gone on them-they have donaghy.oh yeah they’re called the rock.
    so that seagued neatly into my next point about the paper scissors.
    and how nobody CAME OUT LOOKING GOOD FROM PAUL WALNUTS HATCHET JOB.it was neither the time nor the place for it(was the place).I was bamboozled myself by Los Tiempos you’ve been struggling to decipher. (‘Morales to EEUU: My Hovercraft is Full of Eels’!?)
    THAT’S ABOUT THE SIZE OF IT.MAYBE IT’S THE BY-LINE EDITOR I HAVE THE BEEF WITH TAKE IT UP WITH HIM.the vanity fair comment is a world of wonders the french and the germans sean moncrief my sworn enemy why not do an interview with him instead of GALVIN.maybe i should cye instead of deflecting the flack.HA?
    eoin butler you shine with an evil eye
    why didnt you ask paul how he turned a million steers(prob cattle in there somewhere)
    into buildings made of meers(croke park hq)dont you know that dan stays up all night(i don’t at all(trolling accosting looking out for the little guy(in stature ach sar pheiledeoir))

  4. gueuleton Says:

    I know some psychology students who could probably do a PhD on this guy.

  5. massey Says:

    Is he a friend of yours Eoin?

  6. Eoin Says:

    @ massey – I don’t know Dan personally, but we’re Facebook friends. So we’re pretty tight.

  7. There is only one rule in selecta and this is tippa irie Says:

    i know some psychology students…
    a place kicker for the falcons maybe?
    i know a few accountants but its taxing
    i know a few musicians but its tricky
    i know a few cake makers but its sticky
    i know a few vegans but its(lion isteach na purple dinosaur)
    i know a few priests but its an awful hames.HATE!!oh we’re tight alright off to see crispin glover in hot tub time machine now in a while,he was very good as Dueling Demi-God Auteur and the Young Man’s Inner Psyche and Id,couldn’t miss that.quarter past nine eoin.brostaigh.

  8. Eoin Says:

    I hadn’t realised Crispin Glover was in Hot Tub Time Machine – although now that I think of it, the last film I saw him in had a time machine in it as well.

    Your thought on the film, and whether it’s worth seeing, however cryptic they might be, would be welcome Dan!

  9. Lisa Says:

    Though I’m not able to articulate myself as…distinctly…as Dan, for what it’s worth, Hot Tub Time Machine is absolutely terrible and absolutely brilliant at the same time. (Note: I went to see it with a group of ski-bums friends: we’d all originally met in Fernie, the town that it was filmed in, so an element of nostalgia has to be factored into my assessment of it.)

    On the one hand, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s a complete pastiche of other films, think Back to the Future meets Hot Dog meets American Pie – old-school ski tricks and blow-job gags alongside fears about the space-time continuum.

    On the other hand, things really are that debased in a ski-town and the script was significantly sharper than I’d expected. There are some fantastic throw-away one-liners in there.

    It ain’t the next English Patient but, given the premise and the plot materials, it ain’t half-bad.

  10. Eoin Says:

    Hmmm… that sounds more like the kind of film I might wait and download of th’auld internet. Well it’s either that or ask someone if they want to go see a film called Hot Tub Time Machine with me. Or go to a film called Hot Tub Time Machine on my own. Neither particularly attractive options.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Say you want to see it cause it’s postmodern. That’s always a good cover-up for lowbrow tastes. Indeed, it’s the justification for most of my thesis…

  12. Elvis Says:

    If only they made portable ones http://tiny.cc/wvisk

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