Bill and I had an evening to ourselves in Kaua’i, and having a craving for sushi, we went to the sushi lounge at the Hanalei Dolphin. I was really excited that Bill was the one who proposed sushi. I can still recall when, on our first date, Bill was driving us back to his place after our hike. I had probably just dropped the “I love gangster rap” bomb on him and we switched the topic to food. He turned to me and asked, “Have you had sushi before?” I’m an American Born Chinese that grew up in the Bay. That’s like asking me if my hair is naturally dark. Sigh, how far we’ve come!
So there we were, two and a half years later (Cheesus, really?), and we had just met our waitress Christine. Seated next to the large window overlooking the dining patio, I was feeling like we were hot shit. Seemed like the best seat in the house. Anybody who walked by would inevitably get a glance of my Rainbow Poke “Martini” and think “Gee, I wonder what she’s having!”
As the sushi started arriving we realized Bill’s miso soup had never made it to the table. Having already tucked in to a couple of pieces, we figured it was no biggie. Bill asked if Christine could cancel the order of miso, and she said she’d check on it first. She returned five minutes later with a bowl of miso (clearly from a pack, not that we were expecting anything more), and said, “The chef already made it.” … Umm, it’s miso soup that essentially comes from a mix, but okay.
We had reached that point in every hungry eyed sushi lover’s meal when we finally had to consider capitulation. Maybe we had ordered more than we could chew. It could have been the fact that our glasses of water had been completely dry for half an hour. Not even a cube of ice remained. As thirst crept up in my throat it also occurred to me that I didn’t have my secret weapon. I needed some hot green tea.
Christine had done the inverted triangle approach to checking in on our littler corner table. At first she was coming over very eagerly, stopping frequently but quickly enough to get just a head nod of approval while we stuffed our faces. Then she came one more time. Then she just stopped coming over at all.
The sushi lounge at the Hanalei Dolphin is not that big. There are, maybe, eight tables, and a row of seats directly in front of the counter. Though we were in a corner, there was no reason Christine or any other member of the wait staff would be unable to see or hear us. We kept doing the embarrassingly missed taxi dance with our arms, trying to flag her over. Finally I was about to just get up and pick up the pitcher of ice water from the end of the counter myself, when Christine finally came back.
Assuming she must’ve been feeling rundown by all the Kaua’i honeymooners who were on the verge of processing that sashimi is just one type under the big sushi umbrella, we didn’t give her a hard time. I just ordered some green tea and Bill asked for a refill on water.
We sat there for another fifteen minutes, at which point we had clearly finished our entrees, with nothing to wash it all down. Conundrum. My tummy wanted to polish things off with something sweet, but my tongue was getting dry. There was no sign of green tea, and we were still empty on the water.
Finally Christine came back, and Bill brought up my green tea and water. She gave us dessert menus and scooted off without a single word in reply. When she returned this time she was pretty quick – She was gone just long enough to fetch me hot water and a green tea teabag (Seriously? It took you an accumulative twenty minutes to get me a fucking teabag?) and the pitcher of ice water that had been sitting on the counter twenty feet away from us. So basically she wasn’t gone for very long.
Had to hand it to the girl – she had reacted quickly for once, which gave us about forty-five seconds to look through the Dolphin’s dessert menu. She asked us what we wanted for dessert. I told her we needed more time. She came back thirty seconds later. We still hadn’t decided. Should we have been flattered that she took us for speed readers? Hard to say. Ever since we had to ask (and re-ask) about the tea and water, she hadn’t breathed a single word to us. Did we just break up or something? Awk-ward.
Eventually we decided on the Dolphin’s homemade ice cream pie, which was satisfying but not. (And you know me – Ice cream can save any moment in my book.) After eating lots of protein and rice, feeling dehydrated, and then suddenly plied with water and green tea, the sweet send-off was kind of like taking an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper and having all your coworkers sign it as a birthday card. A bit of an afterthought that just didn’t save the meal.
Since I had lost the ziplining race against Bill (I made the wager myself. Burn.), I paid for dinner. Figuring Christine probably got shafted in the respect department with all the tourists she served, I decided to be nice and tip her 10%, when really she deserved somewhere between 0-3% and a talk with the manager. Christine continued to say nothing at all to us, I got my card back, and we left.
The next morning, Bill and I went to breakfast at Java Kai with Bill’s mom. As we walked to the coffee shop, I saw an Asian girl in a Java Kai T-shirt cross the path in front of us. Now this wasn’t just one of those “All Asian girls look the same moments” – That girl was instantly recognizable. It was Christine!
Java Kai is your basic little cafe where you order at the counter and they bring your meal to you at your table. We put in our wants (I need to make pineapple, guava, banana, and coconut shavings a regular thing.) and found a spot outside. We were having a nice, pleasant conversation sipping on tea and breakfast smoothies, when I heard someone call out Bill’s mom’s name. I called out, “Here!” and waved my hand in response.
The voice was that of a young woman’s. I looked around the corner to see familiar shoes coming our way. I looked up, and oh shit, here came Christine. Christine flashed her eyes at mine, heavily stepped to our table, and threw the three plates on the corner. CLINK CLANK CLUNK. If we were playing that game where you slide sugar packets across the table in hopes to leave them hanging on the edge, she would have won.
Off she went, as briskly as she had come. Before we had even sat down, I had fantasized about serving her a “Hi again” with a side of knowing smile, but she did her run-by so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to ask “HEY ROUGH NIGHT?”
Poor Bill’s mom. Completely oblivious to why this woman was so blatantly bitter about bringing our breakfast. We told her about the night before with Bill’s Missing Miso, Our Dry Water, and the Slowest Green Tea ever to make it to the table. And then I explained that I tipped Christine 10% instead of my usual minimum of 15% for her half-assed waitressing.
“Well, she didn’t do much of being a waitress at all,” she said.
How right you are, Bill’s Mom. How right you are.