I went to the Chinese restaurant before getting on the bus the other day. I usually take the bus home then hop in the car to get fast food when I realize I’m out of groceries. This time I decided to get the food and take it home on the bus so I could save on car travel expenses.
My venture into the restaurant was the second of two as I had been there about two weeks previous. While I had been there a number of times in the past, I hadn’t been there in a while, and I found my recent visit to be a generally pleasing experience. I had my car that time, and after exchanging a few minor words with the young lady that took my order, I took my two quarts of chow mein, one pork and the other chicken, and pleasantly went home to enjoy my meal.
I found having leftover chow mein useful. My schedule was becoming hectic and I couldn’t just up and grocery shop before finishing important projects that required involved time. I decided a second trip for chow mein was in order, so I found myself walking to the place after class one day. When I arrived, a very different situation unfolded.
One Chinese man was taking an order from a young woman so I attempted to get in line. Suddenly a thin Chinese man stood up from behind the fish tank and rushed at me. He nearly ran the woman over as he bombarded me with attention. Here I felt startled and shot a quizzical look at the other man already taking orders. At any rate, the thin man pressured me, so I suddenly began reciting my order over the voice of the woman who was still giving her order. The scene was very strange and made me nervous. Ultimately I just ignored everything and went outside to wait in the fresh air amid the downtown district.
When I returned, my chow mein was ready, wrapped in a plastic bag. I was anticipating a walk to the bus stop followed by a bus trip crammed with people. I politely asked the thin Chinese man for two extra bags.
“Here, I give you extra bag, see? Very strong,” he said.
“That’s fine, thank you,” I replied, “but I’d prefer two extra. I can pay you for the extra bag if it’s a problem.”
“One extra bag enough, see? Very strong,” the thin Chinese man said, lifting the handles of those frail plastic bags that often rip at the seams, “this is very strong…strong for walking.”
My mind fell into the spaces of time and my thoughts drifted to the eternities. I thought of how I ended up in that town and how my life seemed to be going nowhere. I thought of a pleasing existence somewhere among the trees by a lake, a place where I could wake up in the morning and drink coffee by the rich sights and scenes of nature. I thought of these things, staring into the Chinaman’s eyes as I tried to figure out where he was from, who he was that he was the type of person who insisted I get no extra bag. His hands were thin and frail, and by the odd dress shirt he wore, he looked like a man failing terribly at trying to be business like. His eyes pointed in different directions and his teeth looked something like mine, all bent and scraggly.
“I have to ride the bus,” I said with obstinacy, feeling all of the sudden like I was some prized, highly wanted criminal, “and I would like another bag.”
Why was I even having to say this?
Soon the other Chinaman interrupted and the thin man seemed to vanish away from me.
“You want another bag? Here…here you go…another bag,” he said.
What was so damn hard about that?