I decided to try some new restaurant in my neighborhood. It was too hot to cook. I looked on YELP and came across what was rated as the best Chinese Food take out in my Bed Stuy neighborhood. I walked to the take out place ten blocks away or so.
I was sort of prepared given the reviews that I had read, but didn't realize until I got there just how surreal the experience would be.
As I approached the store, I decided to take a photo of the outside with my iPhone. I snapped the picture and almost instantly had a very tall, large, african-american man start yelling at me. "You could've told me you was takin a picture. You is rude…so damn rude."
I explained to this man that I would delete the photo and was trying to get a photo of the store front, not him.
"You can't delete anything. You might say you delete it, but that stuff is around forever. Now the government can see my photo. You just don't understand. You rude."
I apologized again and went into this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place.
As I entered, I noticed a number of hand written signs about the specials. They were written on white copy paper with sharpies in terrible english. I walked up to the bullet proof glass to make my order.
When you order, you are speaking through two layers of bullet proof glass.
I walk up to the window, "Good Evening."
Sue responds, "What you want!?"
"I'd like some pork dumplings, please"
She asks, "Stee oh fra?"
"What?," I say.
Louder - "Stee oh fra?"
"Excuse me, but what?"
"I say, Stee oh Fra dumpling"
"Oh…I'd like fried pork dumplings please."
"No, ma'am. I'd also like to order some sesame chicken with white rice."
"Sesame chicken with frah rice."
"No, I'd like white rice, please, and would you also make the sesame chicken spicy."
"Ohh….ok….you like spicy frah rice with sesame chicken…got it…that all?
"No, mam…I'd like to have spicy sesame chicken with white rice."
"Spicy hot ohh spicy media"
"I'd like medium spicy, please."
"Oh…ok….you get media spicy frah rice with sesame chicken and pawk fra dumpling."
At this point, I figured my order was close enough and I didn't try to explain again. The same man who I call the tinfoil hat man (he isn't wearing a tinfoil hat, but it sticks in my head that he thinks the government is listening in on his thoughts and watching him like the people from the old X-Files TV show who would wear tinfoil on their heads to prevent the government to listening in on their thoughts. ) is pacing back and forth muttering to himself loudly. I decided to wait outside for my meal.
As I waited, I noticed a big truck pull up. The truck stopped and pulled a big hose out and to the back of the alley. The truck is recycling the frying oil for the restaurant. That's a pretty cool thing. I notice him turn on the vacuum, flop the hose on the ground, and then get back in the truck. The hose sucks up some dirt from the sidewalk. He exits the truck and walks back carrying the hose. It gets stuck on everything in its path sucking up leaves and dirt. I'd hate to see that oil truck when he is done.
Tinfoil hat man leaves with his order. A young boy comes in with a basketball and a few crumpled dollars in his hand. He stands on the ball to reach the counter and orders some fried chicken wings. I listen to his exchange along with the line of other people that come in. They all call the lady Sue. People in Mercedes with fancy shoes and purses are ordering food here as well as kids who look like they don't even have much money.
Sue takes your money through a little slot at the bottom of the window and she slides the food to your right to the other opening in the bullet proof glass. I pay my $12 and walk out.
My dad always said the sign of a good restaurant was a full parking lot. In Brooklyn, it's a line of people out the door, or a steady stream of people in all types of cars and clothes.
BACK TO TODAY:
The food was great tonight. And I was patient enough to let Sue get my order right. She definitely doesn't waste time on pleasantries or manners, but the price is right and the people watching remained as colorful as ever.
I found 37 cents today on the street in my walking. One Alaska quarter (my nieces already have it so it goes in my change jar) and a bunch of pennies of all different ages and wear. One was even a wheat penny.
I hope that you are reminded of some of the more colorful places you've been or people you have interacted with.
What I took away from today is that I must embrace the surreal with the real and enjoy every experience that comes with it.