Hello Precious Readers,
Did I share some Korea adventures with you? I didn’t? Well, here’s an interesting fun fact: You never get what you order. It’s true. The food is amazing, don’t get me wrong. Each meal had such a depth of flavor from simple ingredients. However, I’m guessing it’s a cultural thing, the food is never what you order.
For every single meal, except for ordering from the Korean-version of Burger King a few times, Pilot and I had a culinary-cultural experience every chance possible. We never cooked. The food is highly affordable, even with both of us on government salaries. If you can afford the travel costs of getting to Korea, it is one of the most affordable places to stay.
Pilot and I are a product of the American school system, so we only speak English. To speed along ordering (and frustration) of our wait staff, Pilot and I would perform the following procedure:
- Find a place to eat
- Decide what we are going to eat before going inside the premises
- Take a photo of the item(s) we would like to order
- Show the photo(s) to the wait staff
- Wait staff is happy we are not being rude Americans, and willing to meet the restaurant staff halfway with rational brains instead of “vacation brain.”
Now, this procedure has some interesting twists. With each place we ate, no matter the owner, server, gender of server, or length of time the restaurant had been established, this exact same thing would happen:
- We show the photo(s) of food we would like to order
- Wait staff is pleased we are willing to work with them about ordering since there is a language barrier
- Wait staff (either with gestures, or if they spoke English) would explain what we wanted is not something we should order
- Wait staff would provide us Options A, B, and C to try instead
Here’s where it gets interesting. Let’s say, for example, Pilot and I chose to eat Option B.
Wait staff would then say, “No, no. You don’t want Option B.”
Pilot and I would then select another option, say Option A.
Wait staff would then say, “No, no. You don’t really want Option A.”
Perplexed, Pilot and I would then say, “Ok. Option C, it is!”
Wait staff would then say something along the lines of, “Good choice!”
After some time passes for food to be prepped and cooked, Pilot and I would chit chat, talk about our next adventure(s), take a break from the sweltering heat, suck in air conditioning as the precious resource it is during a Korean summer, and sip some water.
Then, The Feast.
The wait staff returns to bring out each of our meals.
Guess what? The food is none of the of the items featured in Options A, B, or C. Nor, is it the food that we originally ordered. Instead, we were brought a Mystery Meal that was flavorful, aromatic, fulfilling, and refreshing… But NONE of the items we had selected, were suggested to us, or what we ended up actually ordering.
After Pilot and I returned state-side, we noticed this happens every so often in various Asian culture cuisine when dining in the actual restaurant. Living in Washington, we have a high Asian population in this state and eateries of various and vast cultures here. We have Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Taiwanese, Thai, etc., the list goes on and on.
At first it was comical, but now I’m realizing…
God does not want me to have noodles.
I’m serious. Any Asian noodle dish composing of hot, cold, dry, soup, savory, sweet, spicy, zero heat, elaborate, basic ramen… I am being re-routed from eating noodles everywhere I go.
This theory has been bubbling in my brain since Korea trip in August 2016, and each noodle-instance since then has been a difficult and arduous task that I have difficulty completing. Or eating.
It has never been more apparent to me that I am to be refused Asian noodles than an incident that occurred this week on Wednesday.
Precious Readers, this has been a most difficult week. I’ve been distracted, I’ve procrastinated from writing, I’ve tried throwing myself into work in my day job to ignore my problems, but sometimes life just doesn’t work out that way. No matter what you do to avoid or run from your problems, they eventually catch up to you.
This week, I received two sets of horrible news.
On Monday, I received news that a friend of mine passed away.
On Tuesday, a family member (FM) who was recently diagnosed with cancer, went into surgery on Tuesday. The results of the surgery were not good, much worse than expected. It’s been difficult for FM, myself, and the rest of the family to process this news.
Tuesday evening, Pilot and I drove to visit said FM in the hospital. This is no easy drive. On a good day, it takes 30+ minutes. In rain, such as a fall torrential rains, this can take upward to 2 hours from our home. Tuesday evening, was luckily mild rain and only took about 40 mins. (After realizing I drove us to the wrong hospital and had to drive a few blocks over for the correct one.)
We visited FM and were at the hospital for a couple of hours. We then drove up to FM’s home and stayed with FM’s Spouse overnight so Spouse wasn’t alone for the evening. Spouse’s home is even further away from the hospital than my home is. On a good day, the drive is 1 hour 15 minutes. On a bad day, this can take upwards to 2+ hours. Keep in mind, the times I’m giving you are one-way.
Pilot stayed on the couch, and I (non)slept in a recliner that refused to recline.
Wednesday, Pilot and I both took the day off and drove Spouse from their home to pick up FM and back. Now, when I say we, I mean ME. Both Spouse and Pilot are people who are not comfortable, nor good, at city driving. They’re good in the fact that no one gets injured and no damage is provided to our own or other’s vehicles, but city driving requires an aggressive touch, split-second decision-making, narrow lanes, pedestrians and bicyclists who refuse to follow the law, and knowing that parking is a premium. Especially parking areas that allow you to actually maneuver your car somewhat easily.
This means, I drove. The entire way. Back and forth. Then, once FM and Spouse were settled at home, I drove Pilot and myself back home. The distance between FM/Spouse’s home and my own is its own 40 minutes on average. Wednesday, the sky decided to open up and dump buckets worth of water all over the entire area. Wipers on high, bumper-to-bumper traffic, little visibility, and angry-stuck-in-traffic-drivers to deal with. Oh, and Pilot and I had no sleep the night before after a long and stressful day previously.
Believe it or not, I prefer to completely avoid confrontation. I avoid it as much as possible. No matter your or my mood, if you treat me with respect, I will reciprocate. However, if provoked, I will respond. Pilot learned early on, don’t poke the bunny.
What does this have to do with noodles?
(That’s right, I didn’t forget. This really does have to do with noodles.)
I dropped off Pilot at home, along with Nimitz. (Don’t worry. We didn’t’ forget about Nimitz. Luckily FM/Spouse love Nimitz and he’s always welcome in their home, even overnight. They’re some of the few people he doesn’t go full-Nimitz-bezerker on.)
Pilot was an emotional wreck. He needed time to just rest, and I had more energy than he. I agreed to drop them off at home, then go get some lunch/dinner for all of us. I decided to get both meals, so we could rest and not have a need to leave home again for the rest of the day in the (continued) torrential rain.
I decided to go to a local restaurant that specialized in Vietnamese food. We are regulars at this location and have enjoyed their food for years. I’d say we attend this location once every other month or so.
Walking into the location, it was at an odd hour, probably close to 3:45pm. It was completely devoid of customers, save for one couple eating quietly at one of the tables.
I knew something was different when it was a woman wearing headphones and looking at her cell phones at the register. Each time I’ve gone to this restaurant there was a man who handles the front area. Here’s how the pleasantries were exchanged.
Her: What? (Still has ear buds in.)
Me: I’d like to place a to-go order, please.
Her: What? (Takes out one ear bud.)
Me: I’d like to place a to-go order, please.
Her: Ok, what do you want?
Me: I’d like 2 banh mi sandwiches, 2 pho, and 2 vermicelli noodle bowls, please*.
Note to Precious Readers: Keep in mind, each order of food were identical to avoid having any confusion about the order. the sandwiches were exactly the same, and the noodle dish was exactly the same. No substitutions, no special changes to the order. I used to wait tables. I know the struggle. The struggle is real.
*Note: I said please.
Her: For pho, do you want large or blaudlhka?
Me: I’m sorry, would you mind repeating that?
Her: Do you want large or phadoewkloos?
Me: I’m sorry, large or what was the other choice?
Guy from the couple sitting at the table: She wants to know if you want large or regular size.
Me: <Turns around to man, but says in polite voice.> Oh, thank you. I’d like both pho’s to be large please.
Her: Ok. That will be $50.00.
I don’t even balk at the price. The money is worth it to just go home and rest. I know that the order will take a while, but that’s fine. I’ve been in the car all day and night driving from one end of the state to the other. I say, “Okay,” pay for the meal, and write a $5.00 tip. This lunch/dinner has cost me $55.00 and some obscure amount of cents I can’t remember.
Finding a chair, I sit down and fiddle with my phone. I don’t want to disturb anyone, so I ensure my phone is on silent so it’s not beeping, or vibrating, or making any kind of clicking sound. I hate sitting next to someone whose phone is constantly beeping even though it’s not actually ringing.
At this point, no new customers have entered the restaurant. There is still only the one couple and the cashier is back on her phone.
My phone goes off, and it’s my friend, Caring. Being a conscientious patron of eateries, I say, “Hello, hold on.” I take my phone and walk outside of the restaurant and talk with her outside. We chat for 20 minutes, catching each other up on the latest news. I’m not talking loudly, because there are other people outside as well, and I don’t want my voice to be heard inside.
I peek back inside. I see the cashier bagging some boxes of food, and it’s piled high. I end the call with Caring saying, “I think my food is ready.”
Walking up to the cashier, the cashier has disappeared. She reappears, sees me, and says, “We’re still waiting on the soup.” I say, “Oh, okay, sorry. I’ll be over here.” I did not bother her again about the food.
Sitting down, I continue to play on my phone. Another 15 minutes go by. I hear cashier bag up the groceries.
She walks over the 2 bags to the table.
I thank her, and turn to leave the restaurant. I’m mid-step, halfway out of the restaurant, when I hear this:
Her: You know we have a phone number, right?
Me: (Still polite voice.) Sorry, excuse me?
Her: We have a phone number.
Me: (Pauses, puzzled. Was I missing something?)
Her: Next time you should call first, not walk in.
I balked. I looked around the restaurant. The couple was almost finished with their meal. No one else had entered the restaurant. There was no one else to wait on, it wasn’t a lunch or dinner rush. They hadn’t received any phone calls for to-go orders that I was aware of. This woman literally had nothing to do and had been on her cell phone the entire time except for when boxing up containers the kitchen staff had prepared. Not her.
I was almost out the door. She never had to see me again. I could’ve been at home, enjoying my lunch with Pilot while we took a breath after a harrowing 24+ hours on no sleep. 72 hours of horrible news. 72+ hours of complete devastation. Plus traffic and rain. We just wanted a quiet meal and a nice evening of noodle soup and noodle bowls, with a couple of sandwiches thrown in for fun. I was polite. I didn’t intentionally harass her about the “timing” of my order. I took my phone call outdoors. There was no one else in the restaurant. And she absolutely had to just shit on my day.
Precious Readers, I bring this statement up again. I prefer to completely avoid confrontation. I avoid it as much as possible.
Don’t. Poke. The. Bunny.
As I looked at this woman gaining sheer satisfaction of attempting to put a(nother) rain cloud over my day, I contemplated the numerous ways I could respond. I won’t go into details in fear of incriminating myself. I’ll use those thoughts as inspiration for another mystery novel down the road.
For those who know me actively in life, I have no filter. I’m polite, I’m respectful, but I have no filter. I also can get loud. For those who know me, you will be proud of the amount of restraint I managed to find myself capable of when dealing with a horrible, boot scrape, scum of the earth person determined to be the thorn in everyone’s side.
I turned to her.
Me: EXCUSE ME?
In my peripheral vision, I noticed the back stiffen of the female of the couple. I paid her no mind and continued to look at the cashier.
Me: Ma’am, my friend died on Monday. On Tuesday FM went into surgery for cancer where we were informed by the surgeon that it was the worst case of prostate cancer he had ever seen in his entire career. In the last 24 hours I’ve driven from City A to City B, which was at least an hour each way, twice. I barely been in town from City A which was another hour of driving. I decided to purchase dinner on the way home so I didn’t have to drive anymore. So I’m sorry that I didn’t call first. I didn’t have time to make a phone call from all of the driving I’ve been doing. But, believe me. I will be sure to call first. I apologize for not utilizing your phone number.
I grabbed my bags and walked out the door.
The part I didn’t add, was that this restaurant has 2 locations in Washington. Their phone number is not accurate on any search engine because they don’t bother to fix it. Their number has been wrong for longer that I’ve lived in this city. If you call the number, you don’t get my location’s staff. It goes to the other one. Orders get mixed up all of the time.
As I reached the end of my “apology,” I saw her eyes get big. She kept going, “Oh. Oh.”
For those who know me, you will be proud. I didn’t swear. I didn’t raise my voice. I didn’t make it personal to her. I didn’t bring up the fact that she was lazy, on her phone, didn’t bother to take out her ear buds to take my order. I didn’t bring up the fact, that I have been a wait staff person before and understand what it’s like when it’s busy. I didn’t bring up the fact that it wasn’t busy. I took my phone call outside. I paid the $50 PLUS TIP for this experience. Shame on me.
I just “apologized” and left from my last visit at this location.
Feeling (only a little bit) guilty, I was on the phone with my mother.
Me: I had to self-ban myself from (restaurant).
Me: I may or may not have blasted an employee.
Mom: Which means you did.
Me: I swear, I didn’t provoke it!
Mom: I know you didn’t. You’re not that person. I’m sure whoever it was deserved it.
(I rehash the sitch with Mom.) Yup, definitely deserved it.
Me: I hate bad customer service.
Mom: I know. It’s one of your biggest pet peeves.
Me: You’ll be proud. I didn’t use profanity or insult her or their restaurant. Their food is awesome, but that totally wasn’t worth it.
Mom: Oh. Well, that one time you, Pilot, and I ate there last?
Mom: They overcharged me. I haven’t wanted to go back.
Me: They overcharged you?
Mom: Yes, our dinner was $30, but they charged me $80.
Me: THEY OVERCHARGED YOU BY $50?!
Mom: Yes. And that was before tip.
Lesson learned: Noodles are too much to ask for.