Take a philosophy class and sooner or later you’re going to learn about three classic moral dilemmas: The Trolley Problem, The Baby Problem, and The Prisoner’s Dilemma. The Trolley Problem asks if you’d sacrifice one stranger’s life to save the lives of five other strangers. The Baby Problem sets up a situation in which the choice is to kill your own baby in order to save everyone else in the town or let the baby live and ensure all, including the baby, die. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is about ratting out your fellow gang member based on the possible what he will do and what the potential penalties are.

They’re hard questions. If they were easy questions, they would have no place in a philosophy class.

I propose that those who set the philosophy curricula have missed one I’ll call The Crabfest Quandry. It goes like this: The Red Lobster commercial interrupts your otherwise pleasant viewing of “America’s Got Talent” with the news that it’s Crabfest at Red Lobster, but only for a limited time.

The conundrum: Your 9-year-old’s favorite food in the whole wide world — even better than (gasp) an eight-piece nugget meal at Chick-Fil-A — is crab.

He looks at you like a coon hound that knows you’re eating Cheetos. You attempt to ignore him in much the same way you would attempt to ignore the coon hound, with approximately the same result. Unlike the coon hound, the 9-year-old can speak while giving you that look.

“Dad. We have to go to Red Lobster. It’s Crabfest. There’s one on Memorial”

It’s not that I object to his crab consumption. Nor do I object to Red Lobster. I don’t even object to paying $33 for a kid to pig out on the new Ultimate Crabfest Trio with premium King, sweet Bairdi and tender Dungeness crab — all wild-caught and served with your choice of side.

The dilemma arises because 9-year-olds can’t manage to get the crab meat out of the crab shell. And if you’re the adult you sadly watch your own meal wither into tepid blandness as you spend 45 minutes trying to outwrestle three dead crabs.

The dilemma is brief, though. Like childbirth, the misery is obscured as soon as the ordeal is over.

Plus, there’s going to be a basket full of cheddar biscuits.

As I tried to sneak a bite of corn between crab legs I noticed that the sauce on my pasta was congealing like bacon grease in a drainpipe. That was about the time Anastasia Ervin appeared. Astutely observing my predicament, she offered a crab zipper she hoped would allow the young crabatarian to break up his own shells.

It failed.

Anastasia, the manager, reappeared and did something remarkable: She got a pair of latex gloves, sat down in our booth, and started cracking. She’s good at it. And she stayed until every last claw was open, the meat in an ever-growing pile. She was charming throughout, and when it was done she went back to the business of running the restaurant.

Anastasia is from northern California, so we debated the relative merits of Dungeness versus Red Rock crabs. She did a lot of her growing up in Colorado and ended up in Oklahoma. She’s the oldest (and shortest) of three. She loves seafood and clearly loves her job.

I didn’t expect that bit of kindness from her and I wouldn’t expect it on the next visit. But restaurateurs take note: My loyalty to a very large restaurant chain just skyrocketed, and there won’t be much of a dilemma the next time we want seafood.


© Ted Streuli 2019

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