Ada and I took a short road trip recently to the Grand Canyon and around to Zion National Park . There was a huge rain storm covering much of the west and we were trying to stay ahead of it by a day or so . For two days we had no rain and hiked along the rim of the Grand Canyon . Then we headed northeast and spent the night in Page , Arizona .
We asked the clerks at our motel if there was a good Chinese restaurant in town . They consulted one another for a few seconds .
” There’s one , ” one of them said . ” It’s Mandarin .” She said it’s Mandarin like that would discourage us . Like Mandarin really wouldn’t be our thing . ” It’s Mandarin gourmet .”
Oh , gourmet , I was thinking , might be too expensive . Maybe that’s why they seemed to hesitate . There was a definite reluctance to recommend this place to us , I thought .
But then she said , ” It’s buffet .” It’s buffet ? I was thinking . Gourmet and buffet don’t go together . Ada and I decided to give it a try .
” And it’s off the mesa ,” the other woman said . Off the mesa meant down the hill from where the motel is , from where most of the small city sits . You know that you are in Indian Country when someone says it’s off the mesa .
We found the place easily , down the hill and up the dark interstate a bit . Buffet dinner for ten bucks . We also ordered a pot of tea . Usually at all-you-can-eat places someone comes around periodically and takes the used plates away . No one in this place bothered and our dirty plates piled up . We pushed them aside . The food was good .
An old Chinese man sat near the door behind a small desk . We went to him to pay . ” Two dinners ? ” Yeah , two dinners . ” Anything to drink ?”
” And two teas. ”
Again the two of us : ” No, one tea.”
The old Chinese man turned his face toward me . He leaned forward . He had a lazy eye that seemed to be exploring the ceiling . He stared at me with the other eye . It was an accusatory stare . Then he turned his head a bit to the side as if to corkscrew his staring eye a little closer , to drive the point of the accusation a little further forward . ” Two teas .”
” No . One tea .” He loosened his stare temporarily to look toward the kitchen . He called out to a woman there in Chinese . No doubt in Mandarin . It was a question . He was asking her in front of us how many teas . She shouted something back in Chinese and walked over toward us . In English she said ” two”.
” One pot of tea , ” I said . ” Check with the waitress or go over and look at the table . You’ll see one teapot . ” Any idea of leaving a tip had snuck away a few minutes ago .
The Chinese woman called out to the waitress , who was sitting at a table taking a break . The brief conversation was in English because the waitress wasn’t Chinese . ” Only one tea ,” the waitress answered .
The Chinese woman from the kitchen looked at a paper that she was holding in her hand and squinted . ” One tea ” , she said as if she had inadvertently mis-read the paper the first time . Like it was an honest mistake when she had told him that we had had two teas .
We had been standing there at the desk for several minutes arguing about whether we had had another $2.50 pot of tea or not . He wasn’t believing us . Not for a minute . Apparently , the customer is NOT always right !
When we got out to the car Ada asked how much tip I’d left . Like I’d left a tip .