Sunday, March 06, 2022


My weekend, which is longer than your weekend, has begun. Which means I'm already wondering where in Chinatown I shall have either lunch or a tea time snack tomorrow. It's a rather important question. I like the people who work at my favourite haunts, but a number of their regular customers I am distinctly on the fence about. Part of the difference is the staff has known me for a long time, talked to me more, and is well aware that I can read Chinese.
Whereas to their regulars I am just the white guy infesting "their" place.

This came to the fore last week, when I swung into a place for milk tea and a pastry, and there were lots of people already there. The staff insisted "sit, sit". The question was "where?" This table? No, these folks are staring rather coldly, despite there being at least three empty seats at the long central table. Here? Nah, the three old geezers at this table for six really don't like company, and, erm, I'm white. They're the type who have always blamed whitey for whatever was wrong with the country in the sixties and seventies. I know these men. What about this seat at a table for four where there's only one other person? Um, I don't think so.
The old guy sitting here is sputtering with indignation at the idea.

And now everyone is looking at me. The place is crowded. There are a lot of people here.

That's okay. I'll come back in a few hours when all of them have gone home for dinner.

This has been kind of eating at me for several days.

We white folks are sensitive.

Well, I am.

[The place with the distastefull late morning to mid afternoon regulars is in fact one of my favourite places. The people who work there are really nice folks, the pastries are exquisite, and though it bustles at all hours, for the last two hours there are usually only one or two other people sitting down and having a snack. The distant daytime waitress who no longer works there changed enormously when I ordered in Cantonese, and was obviously able to read the menu. Literacy may not make me a fellow villager, but I ceased being something horrid at that point. And I like the venerable old gentleman who translates for his fellow exiles who hangs out there late in the day. We have a friendly nodding acquaintance.]

I'll probably end up at the place where one fellow goes with his elderly mom for noodles in the middle of the afternoon at least once a week, who always looks at me with distaste when he sees me. The two of them should've cleared out by four or four thirty.
And the staff there is very considerate, and respect me.

[One of the people there worries that I don't eat enough. She's seen me there when my health was much worse. The three old geezers who really don't like company and probably blame whitey for a bunch of things also go there fairly often, but they clear out by four. Which is my tea time.]

One other place, where I like to have the bittermelon omelette with rice for lunch, has two or three eccentric women regulars who often look askance at me. One of them years ago acted like my being able to speak Chinese was some kind of evil treachery. She informed the staff at various places when I came in of that, so that they'd be careful. I'm fairly convinced she had a screw loose (as do the other two), but I haven't seen her around in three years. Maybe her bearings became permanently unmoored, and she's been committed.

[My being able to read and speak usually pleases restaurant and bakery staff enormously. It makes communication so much easier, and there is no need to answer impossible white people questions. I already know what things are.]

One of the places I occasionally frequent has an old lady behind the counter who really enjoys it when other customers are startled at my speech. I think she enjoys the frisson of a freak.
Which I obviously am.

Yeah, that incident at the crowded place last week is still eating at me.
I seriously like their pastries, the milk tea, and the staff.
Probably won't go there again before five.
Don't need the aggro.

OK, I know I'm a mutant.
Please act normal.
Or try to.

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