Case 1

A while ago, I happened to be driving home from a conference held in another part of the country, quite far from everything else. I had been driving for some time and felt ravenously hungry, as people are wont to do after wasting their weekend with brainless group dynamics exercises. So quite naturally, I drove to the nearest gas station in search of a decent sandwich.

Once inside, I scanned the selection available. Uh-oh, I thought, they all have ham or beef in them. I'm a vegetarian, so I asked the woman behind the counter whether they had any non-meat options.

"Weeelll..." She said, "those ones on the left are filled with sausages. Would you like one?"

Case 2

Three weeks afterwards, I participated in another conference. This time the organisers had arranged a meal for us, prepared and served by a professional catering manager. I had asked beforehand whether they would prefer me to bring my own food, and was replied along the lines of "Don't worry, Be happy". The catering manager was informed about my dietary requirements and would act accordingly, the organisers assured me cheerfully.

Of course, when it actually came to eating, I was left standing before two vats filled with chili con carne and chicken sauce.

"But," I whined, "where is my vegetarian option?"

The catering manager smiled at me and pointed towards the vats. "Vegetarians eat chicken, don't they?" he replied.

Case 3

Another day, another conference, this time a very formal one, with people seated around the table and servants handing us our portions on silver plates. When it was my turn, I politely declined the offer of smoked salmon and asked for a special vegetarian option, which I had made a point of ordering beforehand.

The waiter's face was perplexed. "Miss, it seems we have no vegetarian options prepared. Would you like roast duck instead?"

It was at a certain central London landmark that my non-meat-eating mother ordered asparagus soup. Just in case some clown should have decided that today's flavour was asparagus and blood, she asked the man behind the counter if the asparagus soup was vegetarian.

"Uh, yes."

So she ordered some, and ate it. She didn't seem to be enjoying it, but the reason only became clear when, at the bottom of the opaque substance, some pink chunks were found. Doubly disturbing was the fact that, although pink, said chunks had recognisably once formed part of a chicken, or a chicken's close relative. Understandably, we complained, and got free puddings.

In a cafe attached to the main theatre in Reims, France, my equally non-meat-eating father ordered an onion pie. The main ingredient (apart from the expected eggs and pastry) proved to be bacon.
This phenomenon seems to be widespread. Many non-vegetarians have formed their own opinions about what is "not meat," usually assuming chicken and fish are somehow suitable for vegetarians. However, I found myself in a related but altogether stranger situation at one point.

My friend Scott knew that I had had a bad day; I had slept through a test that morning and then somehow lost a contact lens, so he made it his mission to cheer me up. "Pizza, Kool-Aid, and movies," he declared, and I made my way to his little apartment.

I was surprised, then, to hear him on the phone ordering only a pizza with pepperoni. After he asked for pepperoni, he hesitated and then asked the order-taker to hold for a moment.

"Do you like pepperoni?" he asked, not seeing anything wrong with this.

I gave him a look and said, "I'm a vegetarian, you ASSHOLE," and he replied "Oh, right" and went back to the phone.

"I'm sorry," he told the order-taker. "Could I change the pepperoni to sausage instead? Thanks." I listened, thinking maybe he would order a separate pizza for me but just too disbelieving to inform him that sausage was also inappropriate. He did not order anything else, just thanked the order-taker and hung up.

When he got off the phone, I gave him the strangest look I've probably ever attained in my life, and said, "Um, did you hear what I said?"

"What you said when?"

"Just now, while you were on the phone, regarding the pepperoni."

"YES, you said 'I'm a vegetarian, you asshole,' so that's why I had them take OFF the pepperoni and put SAUSAGE instead!"

(Exasperated) "Sausage is MEAT!"

(Oh-my-god-you're-stupid look) "No it ISN'T."

At this point it was impossible not to break out into hysterical laughter. He continued.

"Sausage is a plant, it's a vegetable! I've seen it in those tube things, those are definitely vegetables."

"NO, Scott, those are pig guts. That's even the same animal pepperoni comes from."

After contradicting me a few times, he realized I was actually SERIOUS about sausage being meat, and began apologizing profusely. I pretty much just drank Kool-Aid that night, but I think my night was brightened up better than if pizza had actually been acquired.

In other news, I told many of his friends about this incident and he still has not managed to live it down.

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