While our trip was business, her business was also to make a friend happy. When we got to San Juan, we grabbed our rental car and then checked into our hotel. However, before I got a chance to sit down, she was knocking on the door and telling me that we were going around to the local grocery store and find these quenepas. We were only suppose to go to one store so I had no problems with it. We had been traveling all day and I wanted nothing more than to go to the room and crash. But even so, a few minutes at the grocery store was not going to kill me. Besides, I needed to pick up a few personal products. When we got to the store, we were told that they did not have any. In fact, the produce manager wasn't sure they were season yet. I took the news as an opportunity to put the quenapa search behind us. But my boss, she took it as a challenge and became even more determined.
I was puzzled because despite what the grocer had told her, she was still persistent. I asked her why and she snapped, "Because I did my research. And they ARE available." When she said that she had done her research, that meant that despite the best advice she would receive, she was going to forge ahead.
And so, even though we managed to fit our business purpose into the trip, the next 3 days were spent looking for quenepas. I have to say that it didn't look promising. In each community we visited all of the grocery stores and were met with the same news, "They are not in season yet." But remember, she had done her research. So we forged ahead.
It soon became a recurring theme. We would pull up to a grocery store. Go inside and check the produce. Find nothing similar to quenepas. Then we would talk to the produce manager who would tell us that they were not in season.
Finally she had another idea. "These people are clueless," she lamented, and continued, "We need a new strategy." I was certainly in no position to call produce managers at grocery stores in Puerto Rico clueless. She had no problems with it. Because remember, she had done her research.
Her new strategy though, concerned me. "Back in Dallas, when we want good produce, we don't go to the grocery store do we? We go to a farmer's market or stop at a produce stand along a roadside. We need to do that here." At that point, I had to disagree. I told her that I had done my research. And my research said do not stray away from the beaten path. It's dangerous. But she was determined. She had done her research, remember.
And so, we left the nice, comfortable four lane highway and began to take the rural routes back to San Juan. And at each road side stand, I would pull the car over, and she would jump out and ask the vendor, "Tienes quenepas? - Do you have quenepas?" And none of them did. But she was determined. Finally, on our last day, we were in a community in the mountains, and were getting ready to head back to San Juan. As we were leaving a grocery store, she mentioned the quenapas one more time. The produce manager brightened and told us that he knew where we could get them. He then gave us extremely detailed and suspicious instructions to get to this out of the way farmer's market in the community. I have to admit, I was worried about this one. But she felt that everything was going to be alright. So we followed the instructions. As I maneuvered deeper into the community, I noticed the last street we were instructed to go down was a dead end street. "Okay, we're turning around," I said. "This doesn't look good."
She laughed. "Don't be a wuss. Besides, aren't you the one always bragging about being a big bad MP in the Army?"
Low blow, but effective. So I ventured on. And as we came to the end of the street, sure enough, on our left, was a bustling farmer's market. When we went in, we found quenepas. And plenty of them. In fact, she went to one vendor and bought all their stock. She had found them.
On our way back to San Juan, she reached into the bag and pulled out two of the quenepas. She wiped them off and gave one to me. "Here, try one." she said, biting into hers. As she bit into the small fruit she made a face and said, "Not very good, are they?" But even though they were not as tasty as she wanted, you could tell that as she ate them, she savored them.
She did take them back to the Dallas. I'm sure she gave them to her friend - her marketing director. Some might thing that the whole quenapa escapade was a waste of time. But those folk would indeed be "clueless". Why? Because to her, friendships mattered. She cared deeply about her friends and wanted to do nice things for them- things that would bring bring smiles to their faces. And even for me there was an unintended benefit - although I felt like I was on a roller coaster, I was no worse for the wear. I got to see a part of Puerto Rico few visitors seldom see when they are laying out on the beach or gambling in the casino or viewing the coastline from their cruise ship.
I also learned a lot about my boss. While she tried to convince anyone who would listen otherwise, I found out she had a heart. She cared deeply. Friendships mattered. Nothing was more important to her than her family, the folk who worked for her, and her friends.
What are your quenepas?