You gotta respect old school, batshit, don’t know no better, crazy.
It has a certain power all its own.
And coffee isn’t even involved.
Because its a known fact that nothing scares crazy out of hiding than cheap Chinese food.
Panda Express, the USA’s contribution to the fall of Asian culture as we know it.
So when China pony’s up the complaints about Western culture destroying tradition, we can point to Panda Express.
So I am in line at Panda Express, going multicultural.
And then I see her.
Beige elastic waisted pants pulled up high, like to the base of her bra high.
The shirt might have once been a tablecloth at an Italian restaurant, because red and white never go out of style.
The hair is black, like black that came out of a bottle black, and not hair dye, but like India ink type black.
Skin like the decades old, sunbaked dash of an old Chrysler.
Sensible shoes. I haven’t seen Earth Shoes in about 30 years, but I am sure they are comfortable.
At first I thought she was drawing on the glass separating her from the food with her nose, like you used to do on a foggy window as a kid?
And then I realize that she is just looking intently at the food.
All of it.
I am not even sure she is in line at this point, she is just darting back and forth.
And, I am not sure why this makes it better, she is a mumbler.
Here is the top three things she said during the whole time I was in line:
- “The pan’s empty, how the hell am I supposed to order it if its empty? Is the fat Mexican guy making more? When?” (This is not said to the counter help, just to herself.)
- Moo Shoo Pork? Why would anyone eat that? I like pork, but you don’t even know whats in Moo Shoo.
- $9.20? Why $.20? Thats how they get you. I don’t carry dimes.”
At the end of most sentences there is a flutter of her fingers, almost like she is shooing away a bug.
Perhaps she see the bugs and we don’t, that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
I just realized that she doesn’t have a name yet. I will call her Mrs. Kravitz, from the really old show “Bewitched”. (She was loud and really annoyingly busy.)
But I think the highlight of my whole encounter with Mrs. Kravitz, was when she noticed the Chicken Egg Roll tray was empty.
One of the kitchen guys was walking by behind the counter with a dirty pan and a filthy apron.
“ExCUSE me!” (Only one syllable of one word was louder and screechy than the rest.)
“Que?” In Los Angeles, this is the secret code word that means the conversation should switch to Spanish if you want participation.
“Are there more egg rolls? In the back? Are they making more? Is there a wait? How much are they? What if I get 3 of them?”
All of these questions were delivered rapid fire, with no chance for the guy to answer. Not that he was going to, because, unless I am totally wrong, his facial expression and lack of any sort of affirmative facial expression
means that he understood none of it.
Thats ok, I don’t think she is that interested in answers, just questions.
But I did help her count her change, because she thought the cashier had short changed her.
She counted it five times, each time muttering a different amount.
And then she turned to me and handed me her money.
“Count this. I think she’s stealing from me.”
I counted it, and then I counted it out loud, showing her the count.
Finally, she believed me, and took her money back.
And then, eyeing me like the sneaky dude I am, she counted it to make sure I didn’t take any.
And then she grabbed her stuff, glared at no one in particular, and stomped her comfortable shoes out the door.