Daily Archives: February 7, 2012

mandarin gourmet

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 ?”

Ada and I both said ” tea “.

” 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 .

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