Every now and then, you just gotta get your Chinese on.
And if you can’t find authentic Chinese, Panda Express is not a bad substitute.
Besides, I once went to a seriously authentic Chinese restaurant and I thought I was going to die.
None of the food was bad, but I had quacker shits for three days.
When you walk into Panda Express, two things happen.
You are treated to Chinese muzak. (Which is just as bad as American muzak.)
And you smell, something.
Something vaguely foodish, with the chemical smell of industrial cleanser.
Nothing immediately separates itself.
You don’t smell the food specifically until they start stirring it up to serve it, and that always makes me a little suspicious.
There are times I imagine some sort of elaborate “Food odor release system” is being used to fool me into thinking its fresh.
It wouldn’t be the first wide spread plot by the Chinese, if I might take a walk on the paranoid wild side.
It was at Orange Chicken mid-sniff that I realize that something was wrong.
There was Mariachi music playing.
Now this is LA, so Mariachi’s are as easy to find as shit in a dog park.
But Panda Express has been a “Chinese Muzak only” zone forever.
A quick look around shows that the entire staff, without exception, are Mexican.
Maybe there are a few Cubans mixed in, but you know what I mean.
The food is hot and the line is moving.
In short order. I find myself sitting at a table, setting myself up for having a snack in two hours.
And then I see the Dragon Lady.
I recognize her immediately.
She is normally behind the counter, asking me if I want to try the Walnut Shrimp.
I don’t eat seafood, so it is always an awkward moment.
I always figured she was the manager or the owner, making that totally racist connection purely on the basis of her race.
(Deal with it and move on, I have.)
The Dragon Lady is walking towards the front door.
The girl serving food has disappeared.
When the Dragon Lady is 5 feet from the front door, the Mariachi music fades and the Chinese Muzak is now oozing thru the speakers.
The counter girl suddenly appears and begins slopping chow mein.
The Dragon Lady moves thru the room, sensing something out of place, but not knowing what.
Its kind of like when a predator moves thru the forest and all of the little animals stop making noise, waiting for it to leave.
The noises slowly returned to the fast food jungle.
The Dragon Lady took up her usual post, point man for slinging chow mein.
And all was right with the world.
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