Chinese Restaurant Waitress part Two
More Scenes from a Chinese Restaurant
In my previous hub I introduced you to the Hom family, owners and proprietors of the now defunct Asia Garden Restaurant in Austintown, Ohio. Please forgive me for perhaps revealing the other side of the family, but this is how that world became so sweet. Sometimes there has to be a storm to clean everything up and make the world a beautiful place.
This story is about that storm.
Now Danny had been born and raised in Cleveland , Ohio, but Anne, his wife was born and raised in China. Danny knew she would carry into their marriage the mentality of the submissive wife and she did... At least until I got ahold of her.
Danny worked for the US Post Office, so he was not in the restaurant during the day, and the kids were all in school. Danny would come in early in the morning and help set up the steam table for the buffet. Then he would take his lunch and leave for work.
This left Anne alone with me, born and raised in Ohio, and the youngest of five children, I was raised to respect my elders, but when my parents argued, they were equals.
I listened as Danny would come in after work and literally turn Anne into a basket case with his interrogation. I call it an interrogation as he would sound like a detective in the movies firing questions at an obviously guilty suspect he was trying to intimidate into a confession.
Anne would lower her eyes and race around the kitchen, still glancing at order tickets and cooking in two gigantic woks. Serving up food and ringing for the waitresses to pick up the orders. Danny would follow her all over the kitchen shouting. She never said a word.
Any human being that witnesses this can only tolerate it so long before saying something.
You all know I was born to rant. But what do you say? This is your boss, remember and you need to keep your job. You've got a baby on the way and won't be able to work long. And it's winter in Ohio, no one is hiring now, they've got all of their holiday help, it was tough enough to get this job. Then you look, and he appears an ogre charging a fairy. While he was no giant, and Anne was no dwarf, she shrunk before him, as he seemed to grow before my eyes. All puffed up with self importance.
Anyone who's read my hub on bullies knows, it was just a matter of time.
About that Coffee Incident
During the day, with the buffet going, there was not much call for cooking. We would serve up plates from the steam table, serve beverages. There were no refills except on coffee or tea, so there was plenty of time for prep work in the kitchen.
The bell would ring when anyone came in or left, and Anne had a special hidden window where she could keep an eye on the dining room. We would take deliveries, wash and cut vegetables and meats. Make filling for the egg rolls, shrimp rolls, and dumplings. We would make won tons, and appetizers on large trays, and store them in the "prepped" fridge, inspect fresh vegetables, and prepare them for storage in the back-up cooler. The kitchen was very organized, with Anne being the one who came up with the protocol.
That is actually what it was, a protocol. without it the restaurant would fall apart. Each day certain things had to be prepared that would be used the same day, while certain things would be prepared and stored to last several days. Some things, like the ribs, took a two day process. I would venture to say that a corporate executive has not been trained that could run his business as efficiently as Anne ran her kitchen. There were no notes to follow. If she was gone there would be no restaurant.
Her family was run the same way. Anne would get up at 5:00 in the morning, and pack the families lunches ( total 4) then make it to the restaurant by 5:30. Danny would get the children up, I assume. Then one or the other of them would take the children to school. (Yes, sometimes she would come in to start the rice cooker, or whatever, and then leave to drive the kids to school). Returning to the restaurant she would start the equipment fires and prepare the fresh food for the buffet. Danny would show up and help us get the steam table in place, and help us cart out the trays of food.
He would grab his lunch and go, and we were on our own. We shared coffee, and laughter and conversation. When I became comfortable enough I asked Anne questions. Over the days and weeks I gleaned bits of information (ammunition?) and tried to build her up a bit. Me telling Danny off would get me fired and not fix the situation.
Me: "How come when Danny yells at you in Chinese do I understand it, but when you speak Chinese I don't know what you said?"
Anne: You understand Danny? I don't understand half of what he says. Danny speaks pigeon. I speak Cantonese."
Me: "He's not speaking Chinese?"
Anne: "Some words only, he learn from his mother, but her dialect is different. I do not speak, but understand some. Danny wants you to not know what he is saying, so he mixes it up."
Well, well well, what have we here? So that is why I knew he was angry about the garage key getting broken, and the lawnmower needing repair, and the grass getting too long.
You guessed it, he was not Mr Fix-it either, he was Mr You fix-it. Anne was responsible for all repairs. I had seen her come in with a pipe wrench and change her apron and wash up before going back to cooking. "He has a bad back." she said.
Me: "If Danny doesn't understand why do you answer him in Chinese?"
Anne: " Because he cannot lose face in front of you, so he will stop asking and go away. If I answer in English it make him lose face and get angry, because then you will know he is not speaking Chinese."
Me: But He's angry all the time, this makes no sense, I know he is stretching some words to make them sound Chinese."
Anne: "Danny has High Blood Pressure. I must not fight with him or he gets angry, blood pressure goes up, he will die. I must keep him happy so he does not die."
Ah, the root of the problem. I needed more research for this one. I checked it out, watching his symptoms, and so on. When he was shouting his blood pressure was rising. He also drank coffee, ate food that was loaded with sodium. His weight was a factor as well.
Armed with this information I told Anne. This was after building her up, letting her know the family would not exist without her. Danny could never sustain her pace. I explained that she needed to relieve him of the responsibility of the restaurant, let him know that his job was enough for him. Postal work is very stressful all by itself.
Anne started making two pots of coffee in the morning, regular and decaf. We would finish the regular before Danny came in, so he would have to take the decaf. That is why the coffee got spilled on the buffet.
Danny was getting ready to leave when a customer came in.
Danny: "Good Morning, Welcome to Asia Garden restaurant. How may I help you?"
Customer: "I'll have the buffet and a coffee please."
Danny turns and glances at the empty coffee pot. I am carrying out trays to the steam table. He says, "I'll get that, make some coffee, you drink too much coffee, I may start charging you for it."
With the bustle of three people in a tight space, as I was opening the pouch of coffee and Anne and Danny were finishing the buffet set-up we colided and the coffee flew, everywhere the gravy spilled into the egg rolls and fried rice.
Now Danny had already been upset as day after day he was settling for decaf due to our conspiracy. the customer, a nice gentleman to be sure, said "I see I am early, I will just go wash up while you get everything ready."
Danny meanwhile exploded. "You stupid girl, I should fire you, look what you did, the food is ruined. The customer is upset! First customer of the day! No coffee, you and Anne drink all the coffee and leave nothing for the customers or for me, you are selfish and a pig. Use scissors when you open coffee! Don't just tear the pack! You waste a whole pot of coffee here and all of the food!"
Anne, was rushing in at the tirade, and for the first time in all those weeks, she had found her voice and it was loud and proud and in English.
"You listen to me Danny Hom, this is my restaurant and these are my girls. And you don't need coffee anyway, you have high blood pressure. I drink coffee, she drinks coffee, we have been here working while you play. I get here at 5:30 in the morning, I work all day. You come and go as you please. I stay here till 11:00 at night, sometimes later. I cook for you and clean for you, I do the laundry. I make the money and the decisions. I mow the lawn, fix plumbing change tire. What do you do? Write paychecks? Pay bills? You are the accountant I am the boss. Now you get out." she shoved his lunch at him, "Go to work, I do my work, you don't fire my girl."
Sheepishly Danny set down his lunch and started cleaning up the buffet. He did not say a word. He did not turn red like he did when he screamed, and he did not die as Anne had always feared.
He followed her back and forth through the double doors exchanging the good food for bad. I made the coffee, served the customer, and sat down to eat the enforced Chinese food that I had never tasted. Anne tried to protest on my behalf, telling him I didn't like Chinese food, and he calmly explained that I would. Then he grabbed his lunch and his thermos full of decaf and kissed his wife on the cheek. As he passed my table he said under his breath: "I blame you for this."
As time went on, Danny's blood pressure went down, and the ogre made fewer and fewer appearances. Whenever he would start something Anne would shake her spatula at him and tell him "Don't you tell me how to run my restaurant Danny Hom, and don't you bother my girl."
He would smile as he turned away, though I don't know if she knew, and her eyes would twinkle as she returned to her cooking. But I was there to witness the change, when a man and wife started speaking the same language, and instead of reacting out of each others baser instincts such as fear and anger, started reacting out of respect for each other's place and needs. Occasionally I saw a flirt here and there, light touches that had not been there before. She was like a schoolgirl in love, and he the doting boy.
And Anne and Danny delegated some of the household chores to their children, the oldest two taking the bus to school. Danny helped more in every way.
I asked her once if everything was better or worse, and she said "Better, we talk more now."
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