>La Grande Observer | Union and Wallowa Counties' News Leader

La Grande, OR forecast
& Eastern Oregon University Valley Cam

http://tinyurl.com/n2723qt
Observer news NE Oregon Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Follow LaGrandeObserver.com

Today's front page

Image of The Observer's Front Page

Get Home Delivery of The Observer for only $8.50 per month, $9.50 for motor routes. Just click here and after filling out one simple and secure online form you could be on your way to learning more information about local, state and world news.

manage your account »

Recent article comments

Powered by Disqus

News

The last minute customer

I used to waitress at a small nine-table Thai restaurant tacked on to an Ace Hardware store in Volcano Village on the island of Hawaii.

The manager had hired me right after my 18th birthday and it was my first regular job. During an orientation meeting, the chef and owner, a few years from Thailand, dressed me in a woven wrap-around skirt that hovered right over the tops of my feet and significantly restricted my movement. Through the bathroom door, she handed me a fitted blouse made for Thai women, not this Hawaiian girl, and the whole outfit was finished with a sash across my chest and a belt made from overlapping metal pieces that looked like fish scales.

Buckled in to my uniform, I kind of waddled from kitchen to dining room, serving sticky rice and panang curry, laarb and specials made with ong choy. In between orders, the chef would come out, put my hands together in front of my body and teach me to say sawatdee kha to the customers with a slight and feminine bow.

The restaurant was rarely slow. Situated a few minutes from the entrance of Volcanoes National Park, we were one of four eating options in the little village. After the hot dog cart at Ace Hardware was put away at 5 and the Internet cafe shut down after lunch, we were only one of two places to get a bite for dinner.

Working at the restaurant was an exercise in humility and self-control; I had mastered the opposite of both in high school. Smelling the layers of flavors so well done in the chef’s cooking was torture. I was hungry the whole time, detecting the perfectly fried garlic, the warm cashews and coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass in simmering sauces and the toasted ground rice, kao kua.

Most customers were tourists — some dressed in neon-colored caps with flat bills, most with fanny packs, and a few wondering if they could eat the orchids decorating the tables (won’t kill you, but not tasty). Later when I updated my resume, the list of my duties was so long and varied and I realized the work of a waitress was hard and that those choosing the profession, if expecting to be happy, had to keep the benefits in sight.

At around 10 p.m., when the last tables were finishing up, I set to work straightening up the front counter, making sure the till was in order and the menus were wiped down. For the job, I opened the front doors which faced the counter and let the night air in. Every once in a while, a man would pull up in an old somewhat rickety pickup truck, come in and order tom yum talay at the last minute. A styrofoam container of the soup cost $13.95 (very expensive to me at the time) and he usually gave me a twenty and let me keep the change.

He didn’t say much.

I kind of fell in love with him, though, this mysterious working man who ordered the fragrant soup heated with crushed chili peppers and fortified with hearty pieces of mahi mahi, prawns and squid at 10:30 p.m. He never wanted to look at a menu, it was always tom yum talay.

After several months of his orders, I managed to ask him why he liked the soup so much and he said it made him feel good. He thought it kept him healthy and made his immune system strong.

That was the year I counted every wadded dollar. Clinked the coins one on top of each other, to record my tally of earnings in a notebook. That was the year I found out what exhaustion was and the year I started to discover what things were worth to me — my own time spent tied in a sash as a waitress, and the value of watching the moon in the pitch black night on the quiet drive home, on two occasions with a container of tom yum held steady between my knees.

 
News
Local / Sports / Business / State / National / Obituaries / Public Notices
Opinion
Editorials / Letters / Guest Columns / Columnists
Features
Outdoors / Ag / Spiritual / Go Magazine / Portraits
Classifieds
View all classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Real Estate / Rentals / Place an Ad
The Observer
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map
Also Online
Photo Reprints / Slideshows / Weather and Valley Cam / /index.php?option=com_rss&feed=RSS2.0&no_html=1">RSS Feed ?> RSS Feed

Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Twitter

© Copyright 2001 - 2014 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

LaGrandeObserver.com works best with the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari

cialis senza prescrizione medica achat viagra 50mg viagra bestellen forum cialis nachnahme jelly viagra generika potenzmittel cialis professionnel kamagra oral jelly per nachnahme vendo cialis napoli kamagra se vende en farmacias viagra preise schweiz levitra filmtabletten 20mg cialis le vrai forum viagra generico cialis verpakking baclofen online viagra compra online viagra online propecia en ligne viagra rezeptfrei aus deutschland acquistare cialis generico