Despite a huge step towards education and awareness in both the media and in the classroom, severe food allergies remain hugely misunderstood and are tangled in too many misconceptions–misconceptions that can have deadly consequences. As a childcare worker and a friend of many people with severe allergies, it’s something I often find myself thinking about. But unless you live with it, you don’t know the half of it.
Chad is, according to his Facebook, a ninja, and also my neighbour at the cabin. Though he doesn’t proclaim his ninja-status in his guest post, only badassery, he shares a story of a recent experience living with severe food allergies.
So I’m The Chad. 37, husband, father, badass and sufferer of a hidden illness. I have a deadly allergy. I really need the guy from the movie trailers to narrate that part. About 10 years ago I suddenly developed an allergy to all water dwelling creatures. Call it seafood, fish, whatever, if it comes from the water, it will likely kill me.
Sadly, one of my most favorite foods is tuna. Not anymore though. I’m not here to bemoan my issue as I have pretty much come to terms with it. What I’d like to talk about is respect for people who have allergies, especially in restaurants.
This weekend my wife, the boy and I went to a local MONGOlian restaurant that shall remain nameless. Now we eat there a fair bit and I’ve always been pretty happy with how they handle it when I tell them I have an allergy. They are quite allergy friendly to all sorts and, as a result, it’s one of our favorite lunches out.
As usual we told the server I had a seafood allergy and off she went to tell the grillers so they could clean a spot for me when I got there. All went well, the tower of food was created and the grill was being scrubbed when my wife heard this terrific exchange:
Server: “That guy has a seafood allergy.”
Manager: “Are you sure it was seafood, cause we don’t have seafood here.”
This was the start of a terrific comedy of errors that lead to one of the staff dumping a bowl onto the grill right beside my “clean zone”. This bowl prominently featured both fish and seafood and all of the oil and flavour sauces ended up guess where. That’s right, in my stir-fry. I calmly called over one of the staff and advised that they would need to throw mine out and I’d go and make a new one. I explained why at which point I watched two of these wonderful gentlemen pick through my stir-fry as though they could find and remove the offending material. I explained again, which was followed by further blank looks, more useless picking through my food, ending with me walking away to make another bowl.
So far, nothing too bad, however my return to the grill was met with sighs and looks of annoyance as if my allergy was in some way inconveniencing them and making there world a sad, sad place. They created a ridiculous safe zone that was nearly half the grill and anytime something bounced out of someone else’s stir-fry, close to mine or not they made a Tony worthy production of stopping everyone and flicking it off the grill. It’s pretty horrible when you feel like you have to apologize for something that is not your fault and that you didn’t ask for. The story ended happily-ish with a free stir-fry for me and an “apology” from the manager type person. Will I go back? Maybe, but probably not to this location. The actions of a couple of people who have likely never been affected by something like an allergy has effectively turned me off from the establishment.
It also made me think about how others with allergies are treated and how much of an issue non-allergy folks make when their kids can’t take a peanut butter sandwich to school or are asked not to wear perfume or cologne to work or are asked to take 5 minutes to make sure someone’s food is safe to eat. It would be great if everyone that’s ever felt put out or annoyed by this would just take a moment and think, “how would I feel if this were my son or daughter or myself affected by this?” “What if one peanut, one shrimp, one sting could kill me?”
In addition to his day job, Chad creates short films and photo slideshows with Wildhorse Jack Productions. He and his family can be found travelling on major league baseball adventures. At the cabin, he can often be found on the dock with a book [until those annoying neighbours come over and bother him, anyways!].