Nobody wants to feel like optimism is a mistake.
Yet, walking back from the new downtown hot dog cart, that’s exactly how we felt. The problem, we felt, in the classic act of victim blaming, was not that the hot dog cart didn’t “get it.” The problem was that we don’t belong here, vegetarians in a state that resents vegetarians. And our botched lunch plans were not the fault of the hot dog cart. They were our fault for expecting any better.
We were cautious at first. We heard that there was a new hot dog cart downtown and thought about big cities, where carts and food trucks are viable sources of tasty lunches. We thought about the massive number of trucks in Washington D.C. that line up outside government offices, forking over delicious pizza and Chinese food and felafel to workers conscious of time and money. Those other cities have taco trucks and cupcake wagons and vans that cook empanadas with solar powered ovens. Here, we would be content to start our journey to mobile food sales with the humble hot dog stand — no New Orleans Lucky Dog, to be sure, but a start.
Still, we knew, being Montgomery, that our cart might not be likely friendly to our radical fringe vegetarian beliefs. But when a friend assured us on Twitter that she had inquired as to the status of veggie dogs, we were reassured when she told us that they would begin serving them. She contacted us later to confirm the news: The hot dog cart had veggie dogs.
Today was the day. We walked over, confirming the location on the cart’s Facebook page. There it was! State workers were in line, lanyards dangling around their necks! And there, on the menu, veggie dogs! Two dollars! I wanted to order four of them.
I settled for two, my dining companion for a solitary veggie dog. We were disappointed when the vendors told us that the City of Montgomery had forced them to stop selling cans of soda for some reason related to the fact that they were doing it out of a cooler. Thanks City! Looking out for small business!
But when we received and paid for our dogs, excited to sit down and consume them, even without a beverage, my dining companion poked through her hot dog bun and asked if they had forgotten the veggie dog – you know, the thing that the food product is named after?
No, it turns out that this hot dog bun full of toppings – cole slaw, relish, some shredded cheddar – was what they called a veggie dog. This was what they had added to their menu after a request they had received from some other poor Montgomery vegetarian.
We explained that we had expected a soy based cylinder there in the bun, nestled underneath the condiments, and they seemed curious but receptive to the idea, as if we were explaining that hot dogs could also be constructed from sonic energy and distillations of human love.
Oh, Montgomery. On a day when we in Alabama have elected Roy Moore to return to the office from which he was humiliatingly expelled, our greatest disappointment is a misunderstanding by a start-up small business. Because in the latter case, we made the mistake of expecting better.
Update: Based on the discussion in the comments below, we did a follow-up at Midtown Montgomery Living.