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Wash dishes, adopt an extended family

January 14, 2009

A bad meal turns into a surprising night
by dna strands in my hair

Skiing vacations are the rich man’s adventure getaway, and though I’m not wealthy an adventure getaway is exactly what I needed after a long semester and two part-time jobs. An adventure getaway entails getting to know the locals, experimenting with a new identity or philosophy and making a home in a new place.  So why not be a dishwasher in a sleepy town?

My boyfriend Chris and I drove up Route 4 on our way to the mountain base where our lodgings were for the week, passing the only decent looking restaurant we had seen in miles. We decided to U-turn back into that restaurant’s parking lot before we were left stranded in our rooms, hungry, during a dark and cold New England night.

It was a Thai restaurant, a quaint, clean space with white linens and a Western table setting. A nine-year old boy greeted us and led us through the busy room to our table, where we waited a while for service. When the mother finally came, she greeted us with a big smile and flirtatious giggle. I ordered my usual, Pad Thai, some dumplings, samosas for appetizers and tea for two. What Chris ended up ordering was a matter of trial-and-error-they were out of beef and other ingredients. The mother giggled anxiously.

Since it was the holiday, the wait-staff was away, leaving the owners and their only son to manage the “best restaurant in town,” as the family of 8 next to us exclaimed. It was the worst Pad Thai I ever had and the dumpling sauce had MSG in it.

The mother apologized for the wait as there were two parties of nine on their way and she had to prepare. When we finished our meal, we waited even longer for our bill and the tea we ordered when we first sat down. The woman charged us for the dishes we wanted but they did not have.

Chris paid the corrected bill and, on a whim, started clearing off the tables, bringing the curried plates and half-full glasses through the revolving doors and putting them into the sink, already piled a mile high with dishes. Suddenly, I found myself pouring water in glasses and taking appetizer orders.

I’d never waitressed in my life, so I politely told the customers that someone would be back to take their entrée orders and then hid by the kitchen sink. I worked on each tower of dishes one by one, soaping and scrubbing each plate before I placed them in the sanitizer. I had the nine-year old boy help me clear the sanitizer after each rinse cycle to speed up the process. We were both careful not to break anything.

Chris and I stayed until close. The father/cook offered me a Sapporo and a cigarette, and teasingly called me a wimp when I declined and asked for tea instead. He offered us a prime rib dinner and meals on the house throughout our entire stay, while his wife poured Chris and me some to-go cups of Thai iced tea.

For one reason or another we never made it back there. But it was great to know there would be familiar people to welcome us next time.

  1. Julienne permalink
    January 15, 2009 1:29 pm

    Wow! That sounds like an interesting evening.

  2. keito permalink*
    January 15, 2009 3:12 pm

    I guess it just shows what can happen if you step out of your comfort zone, especially to give somebody else a hand. I thought it was a great story!

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