No frosted carrot cake -- it'll break your heart

MIKE ROYKO

March 31, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

The most frustrating part of this job is being unable to do something for a troubled soul who has a problem and cries out to a newspaper for help. The harsh fact of life is that there are some problems for which there are no easy solutions. And the most we can do is offer comforting words.

And I felt this frustration in reading a poignant letter sent to me by Susan Waitkus, of Chicago's Morgan Park neighborhood.

I hope I don't ruin your day with this tale of woe. But her story should be shared because it could happen to others.

"Today was my birthday," Ms. Waitkus wrote, "and I had my heart set on a carrot cake.

"I wanted a two-layer cake with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting and 'Happy Birthday' written on top.

"Yesterday morning, I called bakeries all over my area with my request, and I might as well have asked for Moose-Antler torte with New Zealand killer bee honey glaze.

"Two of the bakeries didn't make carrot cakes. One bakery would make me one, but it would have to be without the cream cheese frosting. Another would make me a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting but only single layer instead of double. And yet another agreed to make a two-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting but refused to decorate it.

"I finally found a bakery that had a two-layer cream cheese frosted carrot cake that could be decorated. But the cake came frozen and wasn't prepared on the premises.

"The last place I called would make my order exactly as specified but needed more than one day to do it!

"What is the big deal! Why can't a baker accommodate such a reasonable request, especially when the customer is willing to pay extra for the special order?

"I finally gave up and settled for a two-layer banana cake with banana filling and butter cream frosting, which included a nice little birthday message.

"But when I blew out the candles, can you guess what I wished for?"

Believe me, Ms. Waitkus, I feel for you. As President Clinton said during his campaign: "I feel your pain, I share your pain." Or was that Ross Perot who said it? Or maybe my family doctor? I know it wasn't George Bush because he would have said: "Pain thing. Feel it. Share it. An ouchie."

But I don't know what this country is coming to when a person can't get one-day service on a two-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and Happy Birthday written on the top.

I called two bakeries and asked them about it.

One said: "I have no comment." See? They learn to say that from watching TV.

And the other said: "Look, I got something in the oven, g'bye."

As my mother used to ruefully say: "Bakers -- they'll break your heart."

Even worse, I called several city, county, state and federal offices and asked about your problem.

To my dismay and amazement, I discovered that there is no law that requires a baker to provide a customer with a two-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and Happy Birthday written on the top.

As a matter of fact, there was not one governmental agency that deals with this problem. The only person who showed any interest was someone in the city's consumer affairs office who said: "If she got a cake like that and ate it and it made her sick as a dog or if she died, then we'd look into it."

Well, thanks a lot. As my mother always said: "City consumer affairs people -- they'll break your heart."

Then I called one of my sisters, who makes the greatest carrot cakes anyone ever gorged on. And she said: "If the ninny wanted a carrot cake, why didn't she make her own carrot cake? Any idiot can make that kind of a carrot cake."

As my mother always said: "Your sisters -- they'll break your heart."

I can identify with Ms. Waitkus because I go through the same thing every year on my birthday.

My wife always orders a birthday cake that has some kind of glop on it. She does this even though she knows that I hate glop. I have always hated glop. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my last whispered words, as the loved ones gather around and fight over my valuables, will be: "Fight glop."

What I love are Twinkies. After Twinkies, my choice would be Snowballs. So I plead that instead of a birthday cake with glop, we serve Twinkies and Snowballs. But I'm a middle-aged, middle-class white man, so who cares what I think? So I get glop.

As my mother always said: "Glop -- it will break your heart."

But there is hope, Ms. Waitkus. I am going to bring this problem to the attention of the White House.

And now that we have a strong, forceful, determined, socially aware leader in the White House -- with a supportive husband at her side -- we might very well see legislation requiring bakeries to make two-layer carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting and Happy Birthday on top.

Or at the very least, a federally funded program to study the problem of insensitivity among bakers.

Until then, have you thought about Twinkies? You mush about 20 of them together, put a candle on top, and you might never recover from the thrill.

As my mother used to say: "Columnists -- they'll break your heart."

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