Monday, August 06, 2007

Reverse English

#277 Reverse English

It’s always the real stuff that sounds made up and the made up stuff that sounds real. How’s this: delivering take-out food TO a Chinese restaurant.

Called for takeout. Arrived on schedule. Picked up the bag which was a bit pricier than the usual (we’re regulars at this joint.) But, whatever. Bag feels a bit heavier than usual too. But, whatever.

In the car. Halfway home. Cell phone rings. They gave me the wrong bag and asked for a return trip.

So, here’s the customer delivering Chinese takeout back to the restaurant. (Free delivery, at that.)

We exchange bags and they re-issue the receipt, which has gone from $30 to $14.

“Are you sure this is right? This stuff is usually around 20 bucks?”

“Oh. Yeah. It’s wrong.”

Guy goes for a third shot at the MasterCard machine, but let’s not do that, you’ll overtax their brains at Capital One. How about cash for the difference.

Blank stare.

And then, once home, they offer grief because “…you could have gotten away with a cheap meal…. Nobody does what you do.”

Should we send a bill for the extra gasoline?

This was funny. But something’s happening to that joint. Ever since they entered the contest to be one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America, things have started going wrong for them.

Plus, now they have a blonde working the bar. Instead of the Anglo guy with all the piercings. At least he has dark hair.

And they don’t have “Mama.” One hundred year old woman who speaks almost no English and runs the kitchen and the counter and the table service with a hand that would make Mao quiver. Don’t believe that smile.

She is on “vacation.” She has been on “vacation” for the last eight months. “Papa” apparently didn’t go with her. Hundred year old guy who also speaks no English. In fact, he may not speak at all. He, too, could have single handedly stopped the “Great March.” He’s still around.

You never want to see the kitchen in one of these places. But they all have them right out there in the open. Martha Stewart would be appalled. So would the board of health. But nobody dies. The edibles are all grown in this country, not China, so, no worries about antifreeze in the wheat gluten.

The private stock delicacies in these joints are mostly chicken feet and octopus. Most of us can do without either.

But, generally, the food’s good and what passes for fresh. And the atmosphere? It’s the rural version of the New York sit-down deli, but instead of cranky Jewish waiters, you get sullen teenage Chinese waiters, most of whom appear to have been sent to “Mama and Papa” to get straightened out.

You can almost see what level they have reached in Straightened Out School.

Some of them even get the scowl off by graduation day. And learn to pick up their feet when they walk.

It’s likely that “Mama,” wherever she’s vacating, is proud.

Meantime, if you need a delivery boy, just drop a line.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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