Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Tuesday, August 06, 2002 Most people who live in a city with more than one Chinese restaurant tend to have a favorite. Trash and I don’t. We used to. It was about two blocks away from where I work, and I would often call in a takeout order and pick it up on my way home. We would also meet there for lunch. We would also take friends there for dinner. Not for nothing did we call it our favorite Chinese restaurant.
Late one afternoon, I called to put in an order. The owner of a heavily accented voice answered: “He-oo?”
Somewhat discombobulated by the other person’s failure to answer with the name of the restaurant, I asked, somewhat hesitantly:
“Is this the Dragon Jade restaurant?”
“Wee ow binness!” he shouted, and hung up the phone before I could take a breath.
I was disappointed, but not surprised. The place had weird hours, it had never been full, and there had been any number of occasions where we were the only ones there. It had only been a matter of time all along. I called Trash and broke the bad news. Our favorite Chinese restaurant was no more. She took it a little harder than I did. I think we ended up eating from Leeann Chin that night. And no, it wasn’t the same.
For weeks afterward, every time the subject of Chinese restaurants came up, we would sigh wistfully in memory of our favorite one. I would call Trash towards the end of the day to ask her what she thought we should do about dinner, and she would say “Dragon Jade” in tones of either sadness or frustration. She was having trouble letting go.
Finally, one day she couldn’t take it any more. She insisted that I call again to make sure they were really and truly gone. She pointed out that the sign was still out front, after all. I pointed out that that only meant that there wasn’t a new tenant yet. But Trash wasn’t prepared to abandon hope. She prevailed upon me to try, as if together we could somehow will the place back into existence.
I dialed the restaurant’s old number with the air of a trauma surgeon standing over a patient who has been down for twenty minutes, but his wife is begging me to shock him just one more time. Fine, I thought. One more jolt, and then I’m calling it.
“Dragon Jade, how can I help you?”
What the…? We have a pulse!
“Are you open?”
“I’d like to put in a takeout order?” I said, in the same tone one might use when asking Bob Hope to breakdance.
“What would you like today?” he asked, completely unaware that his words were having the same effect on me as if he had said “Phil Hartman is alive and well.” I was so gobsmacked I had to tell him I didn’t know what I wanted and I had to call him back. Which I did.
Needless to say, that evening we had one of the best Chinese meals of our entire lives.
Over the next few weeks, we packed away plate after plate and box after box of yummy Dragon Jade fare. Our near-loss had only enhanced our appreciation of the place. Until the day came when I called in one of our last orders. I heard the ring on the other end. Somebody picked up.
My stomach dropped. “Dragon Jade?” I said, but there was no force behind the words. My stomach had shredded my diaphragm, what with the sudden dropping and all.
“Wee ow binness!” he bellowed. Click. Silence. The light on my phone console went as dark as my soul.
“They’re out of business again,” I told Trash once I had her on the phone.
“No they’re not,” she said confidently.
“They will be soon if they keep answering the phone like that,” I said.
“Just stop by and order it in person on your way home,” she said, and that’s what I did. While I was waiting for the cooks to whip up our tasty, tasty food, I sat in a chair next to the podium that held the cash register and the phone. During those ten minutes, I never heard anyone answer that phone by announcing “Wee ow binness!” That may be because the phone never rang.
The nefarious saboteur of Dragon Jade was doing his work well. He was getting the word out. People were giving up on them. There weren’t that many people who knew about it in the first place, and even fewer people who would continue trying to get food there even in the face of a peremptory announcement of bankruptcy. It was, in the words of Midnight Oil, the end of the beginning of the end.
I decided to take action, although it would turn out to be insufficient. The next time I called the restaurant and got a hold of someone who was willing to, you know, actually sell me some food, I intended to warn that person that someone was answering the phone without the restaurant’s best interests at heart. Somebody was not only secretly dragging his feet, he was also sticking branches in the spokes and spraying glue on the bearings. He had to be stopped.
But the next time I called, there was no answer at all. I was too late.
Maybe there was no malicious intent. Maybe there was just a Dragon Jade employee who only knew two phrases of English: “Hello” and “We’re out of business.” Maybe if that guy hadn’t been allowed to answer the phone, we’d still have a favorite Chinese restaurant.
Instead, now we just eat a lot of Thai.
posted by M. Giant 3:31 PM 0 comments