Posted by He Said
Today at the last minute I messaged Susanne “Want dumplings?” Her response was something akin to “if you don’t bring dinner we are eating the children!” I guess they were driving her a little nuts today.
Sadly, I was without my little piece of paper given to me by a coworker to order my dumplings at the Stemed Dumping Shop.
Normally I walk in, the girls behind the counter act all giddy and laugh and point like 12 year old school girls, I hand them my paper, which also has the total, and pay my $1.77 for 15 dumplings. It’s always the same girls who giggle and point. I guess they just don’t see white guys as muscular and hot as me around here very often. Then I walk over to the window behind which there are another 6 women stuffing “steamed dumplings” by hand and the same super friendly young man with a contagious smile. Yeah, he is kinda cute, but not in that gay kinda way, because you know I am so not into asian guys. The first time I came into this place by myself I played Susanne Charades until he acted as though he was eating (with chopsticks of course) off a plate. I, in my usual understated fashion, started waving my arms in a large arc towards the door like one of those guys on the airport runway motioning the planes. He laughed and made my order to go.
This has worked great. I always get a friendly smile and sometimes even a “hello” from the boy in the kitchen. We have eaten take out from here many times. I even succeeded in ordering without my paper order by using my iPhone and simply playing the word “Pork” and “Beef” and when the price didn’t match, I simply played the word beef and signaled 2, then 3 until the price was what it should be.
Tonight, I was not so lucky. I asked the manager at my office to write out from memory the beef and pork dumplings order, which he kindly did. Then he asked if we liked soup. “It’s not really soup, but Chinese rice soup,” he explained.
“Sure, what the hell, order what you like.”
He added four more items to the menu. So I knew the top 3 items were the delicious dumplings and the bottom four were mystery “rice soups”.
I was pretty confident when I walked in with my handwritten order and placed it on the counter. Immediately I knew there was a problem. Chinese chatter between Giggle Girl 1 and Giggle Girl 2 and then a man came from the back room and took my paper away. One of the giggle girls showed me a single finger, not that one, and said something to which I figured was “one minute.” So I waited patiently. Then the man and my paper came back and Giggle Girl 2 held onto it while she took someone else’s order. Now this is much different service than I get from my fried bread guy who hands me my bread before anyone else (who by the way, was back making bread the day after “the bust”). It pays to be a regular sometimes. Either that or it pays to be two feet taller and 100 pounds heavier than everyone else.
So there I am, leaning against the counter thinking, should I just yell “ENGLISH?” to all the patrons and hope SOMEONE speaks both languages. I couldn’t. Just like I always want to shout CRACKER when I see white people, and I don’t. I waited, and I waited. When the second person was helped before me, I simply grabbed my paper from Giggle Girl 2 and laid it on the counter.
I pointed to the first line. Both giggle girls shook their heads no. I didn’t know if this meant they didn’t know what the hell it said or if they didn’t have it. It didn’t matter, I moved on to line two. More head shaking. Line three. More head shaking. I point to line three knowing this is the last line that describes dumplings and lo and behold, they shake their heads. I moved on, line 4? Yes. Line 5? Yes. Line 6? Yes and so on. All the items that I KNOW are NOT dumplings they will order for me. I don’t have my cell phone so I can’t even call my coworker, Johnny, and ask him to order on the phone, and my iPhone is charging, so no translation app. I am stuck. So I cover the top of the page with the precious dumplings and circle with my fingers the bottom 4 items and they ring them up. A whopping 90 cents, this can’t be good.
This sucks. I have no idea what I am ordering. I take my little ticket to the window where Giggle Girls 3, 4 and 5 have a field day pointing and chuckling. I am beginning to think it’s not my Fabio-like good looks. I watch them pour 3 different soup-looking concoctions in cups, seal them and hand me a bag of what looks like shredded beets. Yup. That’s my order, and I am so very bummed. I figure I will head home, find my OTHER piece of paper with the correct menu items and return. So I dejectedly strut out of the shop in my Fabio walk. I hear shouting in Chinese as I leave, but that’s common here, so I continue on up the alley.
I get almost half a block away, and I hear someone running up on me. I realize as he grabs my arm that it is the cute kitchen boy from the kitchen. He points back to the kitchen and talks in Chinese. I think they all must think I am a mute because I don’t even waste time TRYING to talk s..l..o..w..l..y in English anymore. I just smile and nod and follow him back.
I am directed to the pickup window by the kitchen. Now realize, I HAVE NO FRICKEN CLUE what is going on here. A guy dressed in chef’s garb who was eating gets up, and walks to the window. Cute Kitchen boy talks to him, Angry Chef guy starts yelling at Giggle Girls 3, 4 and 5. This arguing goes on for some time. I sit there listening for what sounds like a serious ass-chewing for several minutes. Then Giggle Girl 3 starts laughing, and the air starts to clear.
Then magically, Cute Kitchen boy hands a large bag of dumplings through the window to Angry Chef guy, and he turns and hands it to me. Smiling. A huge friendly smile and I realize at that moment that being a regular does help. Even if you can’t speak the language. He looks at me and quietly rubs his fingers together and carefully says “money?”
And I realize that several of the people who see me come in all the time realized that I was getting the shaft because Giggle Girl 1 and 2 could have cared less in helping me get my order.
Not Angry Any Longer Chef but Super Friendly Chef guy walks me to the register, speaks quickly and Giggle Girl 2 rings up my order. I pay my $2.25 for more dumplings than I have ever eaten, and Super Friendly Chef guy kindly holds my arm and walks me out the front door. He stands looking straight at me and carefully says “Thank You”.
No Super Friendly Chef guy, a huge “Shea Shea” to you and your caring staff.
I still think its because they thought I was Fabio.