We didn’t have a choice of a booth like this when we chose to eat in at our Chinese restaurant. Just as well–very poor back support.

We picked a normal-looking booth. A very tall and very young Chinese man immediately sprang from somewhere. He motioned for us to sit at the booth we were already sliding ourselves into.

Okay, so he looked more like a teenager, a bit shorter, wasn’t wearing a hat, and he was dressed in a white shirt. But other than that, this could have been him.

Our waiter never introduced himself except with a smile. He brought us menus that had a larger font and some water. We smiled and said “Thank you.” He smiled back and nodded, but didn’t ask us if we wanted anything else to drink. He walked away. Phil and I smiled at each other. We do that a lot.

Then Phil leaned his forearms on the table to reach for my hands. He’s such a romantic guy. Phil stopped short of caressing my hands because the table was caressing his forearms. Actually, his left forearm was sticking to the table. He tried to use the dry paper napkin to wipe the table, but it just ripped.

He motioned (unromantically) for Smiley to come over. We were his only customers, so he was pretty attentive.

“The table is sticky. Can you please wipe it?” Phil asked.

“You ready oder? Smiley responded. Smiley’s English skills were only slightly better than my Chinese, which is to say we had to rely on hand signals and speaking loudly at each other in the hopes that volume overcame the language barrier.

Motioning to the table and making wiping motions, Phil said, “No, the table is sticky. Wipe the table with water to clean it.” He stuck his arm to the table to demonstrate and spoke very slowly.

“Ah. Mo watta.” He said nodding and smiling.

Phil shook his head, took his napkin and wiped the table. Repetition always helps you think you’re communicating more effectively the second time.

“Ah. Okay.” Wait, maybe repetition works. Someone tell Congress!

Smiley turned around, grabbed a stack of napkins, lifted Phil’s arm and placed some napkins under his arms where the table was sticky. Problem solved. Sort of. “You ready oder?” Never mind. Congress already knows about miscommunication.

“Sure, but we have some questions,” said Phil, knowing when to cut his losses. “She (that’s me) doesn’t eat meat or seafood or eggs. Only vegetables. What do you have that she can eat?”

“Whaa? No mea? No shimp? Dat awfuu!” He looked at me with utter disgust as if I ate the muscles of living beings or of bottom feeding sea creatures.

Smiley must watch a lot of SNL. He had that “eww, gross!” face nailed.

“Steam rice an …” he pointed to steamed vegetables on the menu. He also suggested vegetable fried rice without eggs. I noticed he stepped back from me and hovered closer to Phil. Maybe he thought vegetarianism was a contagious disease. We also ordered spring rolls as an appetizer.

“Ya. Dat you can haf,” he wrinkled his nose when he spoke to me, the alien in the booth.

Phil asked him what he would order if he were having dinner. He looked hesitant. It wasn’t a “there’s so many great things, I just can’t decide!” kind of look. His grimace, pause and heavy sigh suggested that he didn’t eat there often. His gaunt frame suggested the same. Finally he pointed to a deep-fried, glazed-with-red-dye#3-something chicken dish. “Dat people like. We make good.” He nodded.

I think this was chicken in a former life.

“Okay, I’ll have that with some steamed broccoli.”

The rest of our dining experience went like this:

  1. Smiley turned on us. His attitude about us shifted somewhere between being so helpful with the sticky table issue and learning that I have “awfuu” food preferences. When the food came out, he plopped the dishes down and walked back to his little table where he leaned his head against the wall and stared into space until he was needed. He stopped smiling, probably wondering what life was like without hamburgers or pepperoni pizza.
  2. The rice came out first, then my veggies, then Phil’s Undercover Chicken dish. The timing was about five minutes apart for each dish.
  3. Someone in the kitchen let out a belch that could only have been a try-out for The World Burping Championships. It was disgusting and impressive.
  4. Our appetizer (the spring rolls) came out last. They were so hot from the deep fryer that we wouldn’t eat them for several minutes. They were tasteless (unless you count grease as a taste).

Former-Smiley delivered our bill and two fortune cookies to Phil. Phil’s read: “You cannot run away from yourself; you’re always right behind you.”

Yup, no running is gonna leave this behind behind. Actually, this butt runs more than I do. You learn to love what you got and try not to let photographers sneak up on you. National Geographic Paparazzi, damn you!

Mine read: “There’s nothing more dangerous than an idea if it’s the only one you have.”

Once again, the Universe was speaking to me. My only idea to solve the “I’m afraid of Scary Old Thai Lady” problem was to retreat to Chinese food. Clearly, that was a dangerous, okay, silly idea. I needed to face my fears and dive back into Drunken Noodles my way. And I did.

Trust me. It was worth it.

We’re back eating at the Thai restaurant and haven’t seen Scary Old Thai Lady. Maybe Persnickety Food Lorna has some powers of her own…