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It’s not funny anymore.

10 Jul

July 10, 2014

No, the title does not refer to this blog.

Last time I went to Tangra Masala in Queens, which is its real name, there were a few strange characters there and I wrote about them in the post called Mumbles Mumbai Meets Sleepy Bhopal. I intended it to be semi-humorous (your humor mileage may very) but everything I wrote was true. However, I’d been there about a dozen times before with generally good experiences and was prepared to go back, which I did last week.

Never again.

Let’s recap what happened last time.

- There was a waiter sleeping in full view of the entire restaurant in our favorite booth.
- After he was awakened by some customers, he started serving us, replacing our mumbling waiter, whose every third word was incomprehensible, and who was incapable of getting us lime.
- Sleepy argued with us over which sauce we wanted to take home, despite my pointing directly to it, trying to get us to take a sauce for a dish we did not even have, accused us of not listening to him, and started mumbling and complaining about us to the rest of the staff- while he was still at our table.
- We were visibly upset and did not leave a tip. When I left the money for our check, the waitress (who was usually pretty good) ran over, grabbed the money, and ran back, never thanking us and making us feel like she was afraid we were running off without paying.

Despite all this, we had dozens of good meals there in the past and, despite the occasional hard to understand accent, the food was always good. So we decided to go back and give it another try.

We arrived at about 6:30 and the place was empty, which is never a good sign. The entire staff was seated at a table and stared at us when we walked in. We gestured to our favorite table and one of them nodded. After a few minutes of waiting, during which time Saarah told me “They’re staring at us” (my back was to them) one of them came over with menus. This was a waiter we had never seen before, and he spoke perfect, and perfectly polite, unaccented English. It struck me as odd that of all the waiters they’d made sure to give us that one, but I chalked it to them remembering us and giving us good service. Was I wrong.

While the service was good, and the food as usual good too, when the bill came I saw that there was a 15% mandatory service charge added to the bill. I had never seen that before and assumed it was new, and idly thought that, ha ha, they must have started adding it because of us not tipping last time. Yeah, as if we were that important, ha ha.

yelp-bad-reviews

Turns out I was almost right.

While restaurants have the right to add mandatory tips (that’s what the service charge is), I hate it because it takes away my right to tip whatever I feel is deserved. Sure, I can add more, but I can’t take anything away. What pissed me off right there was that if it were added because of us (more on that later) it meant that the lack of tip last time was in their eyes a reflection of my cheapness and not their awful service. In other words, I was the problem, not the lousy staff.

Saarah called her sister, who often also went to that restaurant, and asked if she had ever seen a service charge. She wasn’t sure but believed that it was on her bill the last time she was there. When was that? Coincidently, it was just a couple of days after our bad experience, adding fuel to my theory that it had been added just because of me.

Anyway, I was still not egotistical enough to think that I had affected the whole billing structure of an entire restaurant, so I went on Yelp and read some reviews. I found one, back in 2013, complaining that they had added a service charge for a small party of two. So I was wrong that the policy was created just for me, but it was clearly added to my bill just for me in response to my last meal there. I’d been there dozens of times, always tipped, and probably tipped a little higher than most patrons there. (I found out that rarely do those customers reach 10%, let alone 15%.) But because one time their staff has a meltdown, suddenly I’m viewed as a threat to not tip. But while that’s offensive, what really pisses me off is that, as I said, they see me as the problem, not their staff. I deserved an apology, not a service charge!

I’m the one who received bad service. I was the one whom a waiter argued with. I’m the one who was insulted.

I did not get an “I’m sorry.” I did not even get a “what’s the problem?”  I got treated like I caused a problem and when I returned, I was treated like they didn’t trust me.

I left the money on the table, service charge and all, and stood up to leave. The waitress, who had not served us at all, rushed over to grab the money before I was even halfway to my feet. She took the money and ran off- not even a thank you. Obviously she wanted to make sure I wasn’t stiffing them. In the past, the staff was so lazy that try as I might, I often could not find anyone to take the money, now the female flash was spiriting it away under my very nose.

Worried I’m not going to tip after years of my leaving perfectly good tips? How about asking yourselves- or better yet, ask me- why I didn’t tip that one time. Don’t assume I’m a cheapskate, look at your sleepy, mumbling, combative staff and figure it out. Don’t look at me with suspicion and make me feel like a crook when I’m going to your restaurant with the intention of spending money, tipping, and coming back again! YOU screwed up last time, not me!

Meanwhile, you lost me as a customer. For good, this time.

And the picture of the sleeping waiter is gracing my Yelp review.

This guy deserves a tip?

This guy deserves a tip?

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Doctor Noodles: an Adventure in Time and Space

4 Jul

July 4, 2014

Doctor Noodles: an Adventure in Time and Space, set solely in the psychiatric ward of a major metropolitan hospital.

 

Doctor Noodles stepped out of the janitor’s closet which he believed to be his time machine. He stopped making the grinding and hissing sound of the time engines only because he ran out of breath. Smoothing out his blue-stripped hospital-issued pajamas, Doctor Noodles surveyed the alien landscape before him.

To his left was the bed with the worn mattress where he battled the ferocious moon dinosaurs last week. To his right was the lamp that just yesterday became possessed by the sinister Professor Perilous and could only be defeated by pulling the power cord out of the wall socket, an action which caused him to be yelled at by the odd alien creatures who liked to dress up as doctors and nurses and poke him with strange needle-like things.

“Doctor Noodles! I found it!” Coming towards him down the hall was his robotic sidekick Mike, who rolled around in a wheelchair because his motor circuits had burned out long ago in a space liner crash. It also affected his short term memory and speech circuits.

Doctor Noodles had lost a very valuable piece of equipment. Although people frequently told him that it was an old Rubik’s cube, he knew that it was really a prismatic occulon, a very powerful artifact of the Rubik Federation. He also liked the colors and the way the patterns changed if you moved it.

“Thank you Mike, I thought it was gone for sure.”

“So did I, um yeah. So did I. But I took my meds today and then I remembered where I left it. I tried really hard and, um yeah, I remembered where I left it!” Mike seemed very proud and Doctor Noodles solemnly shook his hand.

Around the ward people slept or sat. Some watched television, some watched the ones who were watching television. Some watched Doctor Noodles and Mike. Others were off in their own adventures, where they went to happy places and were reunited with family the only vaguely remembered.

“What are we going to do today, Doctor Noodles? What about today? Do you have an adventure for today?” Mike was tugging at Doctor Noodles’ sleeve. The Doctor himself had become fascinated with some trees outside their window. The leaves were so green, and so many leaves.

“Doctor Noodles, I think today we can look for a unicorn. That’s my idea, a unicorn. A unicorn has a horn right in the middle of its head. Think that hurts, Doctor Noodles? I don’t think I’d want a horn in the middle of my head.” Mike was looking at the other end of the ward, where a nurse was making her rounds with the patients. “I don’t think that I need another pillow. I was tired and I went right to sleep. I had two pillows. I don’t need another pillow, um.”

But Doctor Noodles was busy negotiating an alliance between the trees and the birds.

 

hospitalbed

 

 

 

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Mumbles Mumbai Meets Sleepy Bhopal

28 Jun

June 28, 2014

The 21 Club it is not.

But then again, it isn’t Gray’s Papaya.

Somewhere in the vast sea of cuisine that exists between American Hackleback Caviar at $60 per ounce and $1 hot dogs is the Indian restaurant called Toshan. That isn’t the real name, though it is close, but it is a real restaurant in Queens and I’ve been there about a dozen times. It is a favorite of Saarah’s so, despite my not being a fan of Indian food, we go there every so often. Their food is a fusion of Indian and Chinese, so I generally find something I like on the menu.

It is kind of a hole in the wall but, if you ignore the Department of Health’s B rating (Why? I don’t want to know.) it is a good place with generally decent service and good food.

Just not this time.

We walked in around 5 o’clock and only 2 of the 8 or 9 tables were occupied, which was great because we could get our favorite table. It is a small corner table but it is next to a small partition wall so it has a little bit of privacy, at least on one side. The other side is open to the rest of the place, but at least I’m sure that no Thugee cult members are going to attack from the right and rip my beating heart out of my chest. (Hey, I saw Temple of Doom. I know to watch out for Mola Ram. This is an Indian place, after all.) However, it was not to be.

mola-ram-heart-400x249

For reasons you will soon see, we had to skip our favorite table (and safety from heart-stealing cultists) and take one that was, unfortunately, right in the center. (Although there were only 2 tables occupied by customers, the way this place is set up, any other table we took would put us right on top of the other customers. And while one of them was an attractive Desi with a short top, my girlfriend probably would not care for me asking the hot chick to pass the soy sauce.)

So why couldn’t we get our favorite table? It was either:
A- the table had not been cleaned since the last customers left
B- it had a broken leg and was out of service
C- a group of dogs was playing poker there, just like in the famous picture
D- a waiter was asleep there.

The correct answer is D, a waiter was asleep there, and I have photographic proof, taken over Saarah’s shoulder.

Yes, that is Saarah’s debut in this blog. Isn’t she beautiful?

Yes, that is Saarah’s debut in this blog. Isn’t she beautiful?

So there he was, stone cold asleep, not only right at our favorite table, but in fact in the very seat that Saarah prefers. And did I mention that this was Saarah’s birthday? Unless the waiter, whom I’ll call Sleepy Bhopal, was gently snoring Happy Birthday this was a serious damper.

Now I have to point out, the place has other regular waiters. One is a woman who is generally good and attentive. The other is an older man (or maybe just middle aged but with prematurely gray hair- it’s hard to tell and I wasn’t about to try to snap a picture of him since he was both awake and handling my food) who may or may not speak English. It is really hard to tell with his accent. On top of that, he speaks in a very low voice. The woman seems to be in charge as she runs the register, but if she’s free she’ll run the food too, so the service was by committee, delivering food based on who was free and where they were standing at the time. Sounds silly, but like I said, there were only 2 other tables.

So there we were, sitting at a table in the middle of the small room, almost but not quite on top of the other customers, and with no protection at all from Mola Ram if he decided to burst out of the kitchen, horns on head ablaze, determined to rip my beating heart out of my chest. Right after he dropped off a few plates at the next table, that is.

So we sat there and, after I took a few sneaky pics of Sleepy Bhopal, the mumbling gray-haired waiter, whom I’ll call Mumbles Mumbai, came over and took our order. In addition to our food, I got a Diet Coke and Saarah asked for a Diet Coke with extra lime, no ice. This place does not, for some reason, have lemons. They also keep the cans of soda in a cooler behind the counter, so go figure.

The soda came, two cans, two glasses loaded with ice, no lime.

So with a sigh, I called over Mumbles and again asked for some lime. He nodded his head and scurried away. Really, like a crab. Anyway, he was back a few minutes later with… not lime. He was back with our appetizers.

So I just sort of sighed and looked at him with a look of infinite sadness, a look that said “hey, I worked all day, it’s my girlfriend’s birthday, all I want is some lime for her soda, can you please help me out?” Really, you may not think it is possible for a single glance to convey all of that but it did, for it suddenly dawned on him, this look of beatific glory spread over his face, he knew, absolutely knew, and rushed back into the kitchen.

He came right back with two knives.

So I assumed that the knives were for our appetizers (which was lollipop chicken and did not require knives) and waited for the lime, which never did come.

Saarah said “he thought you said knives, not lime.”

And then Mola Ram burst out of the kitchen, horns on head ablaze, and ripped my beating heart out of my chest.

Mola_Ram

At least that’s what it felt like. So I called over the waitress and asked for (and received!) some lime. Literally a whole soup bowl full.

Meanwhile, things were stirring with the still-sleeping waiter.

While Mumbles Mumbai was off in the kitchen and the waitress (does she need a silly name too? Is Desi Debi starting to cross the line from silly to racist?) was nowhere to be seen, a family came in and, with no one to greet or seat them, just stood around. And since this place is so small, they just stood around right on top of us.

And now, an ethical question.

If you go into a restaurant, and the only person in sight is a sleeping waiter, do you wake him up? I’d let him sleep, not because it is polite or ethical, but because I don’t know if the guy is prone to night terrors and I’d be worried that if I tried to wake him he’d suddenly jolt awake and, with a crazed look in his eyes, try to rip my beating heart out of my chest.

Plus, no way would I want to touch him. Uh uh, nobody is going to sue me for sexual harassment.

But throwing all caution to the wind, the father of the family leaned over and woke up (I couldn’t see how) Sleepy and told him the wanted a take-out order. The waiter wiped the sleep out of his eyes and, with a clear and obvious attitude of “leave me the f- alone,” slowly got up, stretched, and took their order. The waitress then returned and took the order slip from him. For all the world, it looked like she was used to his public naps, like he slept in front of the customers all the time. For all I know, maybe this place is famous for its somnambulistic servers.

Saarah and I eventually finished our meals and wanted to take some leftovers home. (Not the lime, though, there was just so much of it.) We called over the waitress. By now we were largely ignoring Mumbles and only calling over the waitress. However, Sleepy intercepted the signal and came over. We told him we’d like to take our dishes home and Saarah told him we’d also like some extra sauce. There were two sauces on the table and she pointed to the one she wanted. Simple. Easy-peasy.  (Not lemon-squeezy for obvious reasons.)

But Sleepy was wearing his cranky pants this day. Despite having the sauce pointed out to us, he started arguing with us about which sauce we wanted.

“Sauce? What sauce? There’s the sauce for the lollipop chicken, there’s soy sauce, maybe you mean ketchup, there’s the spicy sauce…” etc etc etc yada yada yada and honestly, not only did he have an accent, he was also still half asleep and most of what he said came out in a slur. A nasty sounding slur. Sleepy woke up with an attitude.

Saarah got real angry and told him “THIS SAUCE” and lifted the jar right up in front of him. Sleepy walked away muttering pretty loudly under his breath and Saarah and I both started complaining about him, so loudly that the waitress came over and said something to Sleepy, and from then on only she took care of us, bringing our doggy bag and the check.

Saarah and I then loudly discussed that we were not leaving a tip. (Actually we did- 3 cents. The bill was $34.97 and I dropped $35 on the table, not bothering to stick around. ) The waitress was so sure we were leaving without paying that as soon as I looked as if I might be thinking about possibly maybe standing up and leaving that she rushed over to the table and looked for the money.

So what’s the moral of the story? Never trust Mike Bloomberg. As mayor, he made restaurants put up letter grades to signify the cleanliness of the place, but what about the signs we really need? Like this?

sleep rating

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