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December 28, 2008

Fear of asking... and free fajitas!

December 28. Day 181.

Leah Day discussed fear of asking in a comment Friday:

I plan to start asking questions immediately, starting with this one:

Do you ever deal with feelings of fear when asking questions? Has
anyone ever attacked you for asking for something?

Those two questions are a great place to start thinking about asking. First of all, no one has ever attacked me, rebuked me or given me anything more than attitude. And attitude is what I get just as frequently if I don't ask. In fact, I truly didn't expect people to be so open, friendly, generous, engaged, or up for anything. Especially when it comes to welcoming me into their world or showing me something new. If I was cynical, I might think they're flattered by my interest. But I rather believe they are ready and willing to share.

In financial, commercial or other transactional contexts, where I get turned down a fair amount, I suspect people simply don't need to be cruel or mean to refuse. They've mastered a different art: saying no. They've gotten so good at it that they know to blame "the manager," "the owner," "how things are" -- while keeping that permasmile on their lips. They've discovered the power of these five words: Sorry, I can't do that. (The only exception are two library guards at my graduate school, who are sadistic in their denials. See here and here. They're on par with Eastern European customs officials, and I've dealt with my share of those!)

My own fears and inhibitions are another thing. Of course I've been nervous. Asking for the raise was probably scariest, because a) I'd never done it before, and b) I felt I had something to lose. My career, unlike a discount on a skirt, matters. What if he viewed me as inconsiderate or ungrateful? But what if I sounded too sheepish or childish, and he lost some respect for me? I wrote out a script and imagined all sorts of possible responses, just to build up the courage to make the call. And my pulse was racing as I formed the words aloud.

Another occasional concern is how people I know will judge me. What if your friend thinks you're greedy or pushy or weird for asking her, or someone else? Strangers I could care less, as long as I know I've been courteous and fair; but with friends and family, I don't want to be repetitively pushy, or drag them along or waste their time as I try to negotiate, if they're not interested.

But perhaps I'm not frightened enough. Perhaps I should be taking more risks -- bargaining harder, or pushing more boundaries. Perhaps if I want a real challenge, I'll open it up to readers with poll: What should Roxy ask for? And go with the most popular, or most controversial, asking. Hmmm...

Today is actually a good example of getting over fear of judgement.

I went to Taco Palenque, the best Mexican restaurant on the planet. I'll probably lose my San Diego residency for saying this, but McAllen wins.

I noticed a young man wearing a kitchen apron standing in the dining area, so I sprang out of my seat and asked him if he could share any fajita making tips. (Ok, it wasn't that abrupt. First I told him I love this place, come here sometimes straight from the airport, nothing like it anywhere else.) He said he'll bring the manager. Immedately, I could sense my stepmother was squirming. It was her hometown, a restaurant she frequents, and perhaps she felt I was taking up people's time for a silly or self-indulgent purpose, or coming in and calling attention to our table.

The manager explained that the spices come from their supplier premixed, but that if I want good fajitas at home, all I really need is salt and lemon. No marinade, no preboiling, no fancy tricks. Just sprinkle and grill over low heat. He invited me to the kitchen and showed me how it's done (minus secret ingredients, unfortunately).

I thanked him, and when I sat down again, he returned to our table with a $10 certificate.

Gained: A free fajita plate. Muchissimas gracias, Felipe!
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