My girlfriend lives in Westchester, 20 minutes over the Bronx border. But when it comes to what we New Yorkers take for granted, it might as well be Kansas.
Staying over recently to do some writing after she went to work, I begin getting hungry around noon and decide to walk down the road to get a quick bite. And walk . . .
After 20 minutes, three gas stations and a golf course, I realize I'm in trouble. But wait, up in the distance. Yes, a takeout Chinese restaurant! Hallelujah!
I get in line. The guy in front of me studies the menu, then slowly says, "I want to order . . ."
The young Asian lady behind the counter has little patience. "Yes, you want to order. What? What?"
"Spareribs . . . Chicken fried rice . . ."
"That's it? OK. Next!"
I step up. "Beef chow fun."
"Pan fried noodles?"
As I wait, the guy's number is called. He rushes to the counter as she verifies his order in two bags.
"Two sparerib. Two chicken fried rice."
He stares at her, confused. "Why did you give me two of these?"
"That's what you order."
"No I didn't."
"Yes! You said, 'I want two order.' "
"So, two order."
I size up the situation. The woman is an immigrant. Some Asian languages rarely use plurals. No need to say "two girls" -- you've already said "two." Two girl. Two order. The guy screams that she should learn the language. The woman screams back. Why did he have to say, "I want to order?" Just order, you nitwit!
I finally get my wonton soup. Maybe I'll hail a cab. Ha ha. After the long march, I heat it up. Yep, bland and thick with MSG.
And whose fault is that? Mine, for ordering Chinese food out of New York City!
The next day I'm home, writing late at night. I get hungry again and walk half a block to the Korean deli. Sushi? Lean corned beef? The choices are endless.
When Dorothy Gale proclaimed, "There's no place like home," I know she was talking about Kansas.
But let's see her get a banh mi sandwich at 2 in the morning.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.