It takes Nali the whole Saturday to troubleshoot the database, pinpoint the reason why it is slowing down, rewrite queries, and reconfigure essential tables. When it’s all over, it’s seven o’clock at night. She drove from Edison, New Jersey that morning, up the Garden State Parkway and the I-87 Highway. It took her three hours to get to Albany, New York, where this job is located. She didn’t want to come, but she needs the extra money. She knows Daju, the owner of this small Asian consulting company, who would call for help from time to time when he has a difficult issue at hand.
“I think you are too tired to drive back today. How about you stay with Mi and his wife Mian? They have two spare bedrooms available and are always happy whenever I send a guest over.” Daju says, “and also if you are looking for a place for dinner, there’s an Asian restaurant ‘Imperial Garden’ just around the corner. Tell them my name and they will give you a 15% discount.”
Daju gives Nali the address of Mi’s house and they part their ways. Nali knows that Daju probably only pays Mi very little for the guest stay, and for this reason, she intends to drive to Mi’s place after 10PM so that she would bother the hosts as little as possible. There are three hours to kill. This is upstate New York, not New York City. There’s no activity within reach, especially for an Asian immigrant. The only place she can go is the Imperial Garden.
The restaurant is half full at 7PM when she first arrives. Then the patrons gradually thin out until there are only two tables left. Nali looks at her cell phone–9:30PM, still half an hour to kill. She has never seen an Asian restaurant with a bar, except P.F. Chang, but that’s a popular chain completely Americanized. It is strange that this “rural” Asian restaurant would have a bar–everybody calls upstate New York rural. The waiters–they only have waiters–idle themselves in the bar area and they talk, often giving her wistful glances. Nali knows what those glances mean–disapproval. A woman, sitting in a restaurant at night, alone, for hours. Such an act sends several alarm bells screaming. It doesn’t matter this is the 21st century–the old customs and old ways of thinking will never die.
The bill is already on the table for more than an hour, but she doesn’t touch it. She understands that the waiters (among them one is probably the owner) want her to be gone since her very presence challenges their idea of a normal world. There’s a slow fury building up inside her that’s ready to explode. Whenever the waiters send her glances, she will glance back at them and stare at them long and hard, just to show her defiance. She finds another thing strange about them–they seem to be reading an iPad intensely and frequently and when they talk, numbers and English words mingle with their native tongue–a native tongue that Nali doesn’t understand. They are obviously reading something in English. If they are reading in their own language, they wouldn’t talk with each other about it with so many English words inserted. She has never seen any waiter in an Asian restaurant reading English posts online before.
When she looks at the bill, her fury increases. They have added 15% to the bill as “gratuity” already as if they are afraid that she won’t be willingly paying them the service tip. She once worked as a waitress herself. Since then, she always pay 20 to 25% for tips just so that people won’t look down upon her. Now the fact that these people just assume that she is poor and cheap and disrespectable infuriates her.
When a waiter comes to her table, she asks him for a discount since she’s Daju’s friend, but the waiter dismisses her claim. It makes her feel worse that he doesn’t even want to argue with her–she is not a creature who deserves to be argued against.
She walks up to the bar area. The three waiters all turn to look at her and judge her. And she yells at them, “Now take your gratuity out of this bill and give me the 15% discount I deserve. Stop shaking your head like a stupid idiot and wipe that smirk off your face.”
“Wow, I didn’t know you have so much energy in you.” One of them jokes. All three of them laugh heartily.
“I know what you have been doing here. Do as I say, otherwise…” She screams.
“What are you going to do?” They taunt her.
I definitely have an ending for this story, but I can’t finish it today. I will post the ending tomorrow.