It’s safe to say that in the Fall of 1997, I definitely had an expensive and ever continuing drug, cigarette and alcohol habit! My parents’ abundant allowance that they generously bestowed upon me wasn’t enough to keep up with my high-caliber lifestyle. I had to get a job.
This inevitably led to a conversation with my parents. “Uh Mom… I think I want to get a job.” I said one day, with long hair pulled behind the ears and a stony grin. “Wow, you do?” My Mom replied with an astonishment that offended me. “Well, yeah Ma!” I replied.
My friend Mitchell worked a Chinese restaurant called “Tai-Wah”, at a plaza in Hudson, Ohio. He answered phones and took carry-out orders. He got fed free Chinese food constantly. They were hiring people to take carry out orders. It seemed like a good gig to me.
I came in to interview with Linda Leung, who likely had a long Chinese name that started with “L”, but went by an American name to make things easier for her customers and friends. Linda had a unique personality. She was animated during the entire interview, saying in a thick Chinese accent, “If you Mitchell’s friend, you must be good boy!” Linda defended the High Schoolers that worked for as if they were her kids. She hired me. She had no idea what I was up to behind closed doors.
On went my job at Tai-Wah. I would answer phones and take carry out orders, making sure to bag them and scoop little white containers full of rice for each order. I would often grab large nuggets of General Tso’s Chicken out of the carry out boxes when Linda’s husband, the head cook, Bill Leung, wasn’t looking. Bill also had a long chinese name that started with “B”, but used an american version for convenience.
And I was often high at work. Sometimes just a little, sometimes too much.
One day I was really stoned at work and kept telling Linda I had to use the restroom every 20 minutes or so. I would go into the restroom and goof off, or chew on marijuana stems. Linda began to get suspicious and angry. “Ben, you are a bad boy!” She yelled. “You do the drug! I can see it in your eye!”
“Ummmm… No Linda I don’t do drugs.” I replied deliriously.
“You have to get back to work! I can’t run front register and take carry-out order on phone!” Linda yelled, and then the phone rang and she picked it up. “Hello, Tai-Wah! How are you?”
I worked with a dishwasher named JinJing, who was a pure original from China. Linda told me about her once, that she was one of the red children under Mao Zedong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Guards_(China) Linda seemed to speak of her as if she was a criminal maniac. She had a rough edged personality and silver teeth. She only knew one phrase in English, “You go home!” JinJing would get annoyed with me in all my doped up antics, and often yell this phrase at me. Later on, we became pretty good friends.
One night, Linda and Bill made a special beef dinner. They would always cook for the employees at the end of the night. They asked me to be the first to try it. I ate some of the beef with broccoli and Szechuan sauce, paired with steamed rice. “How do you like it?” Tim asked me, with a snicker and gleam in his eye. “Uhhh… it’s alright man. Pretty good I guess.” I replied with all my cotton-mouthed marijuana teenage hunger.
“Do you know what it is?”
“Ummm… It’s beef man. Right?”
“No, it is tripe. It is cow stomach!”
Linda and Tim laughed furiously. I think they knew I was high all of the time.
While peers of mine in High School began to look at colleges in their Junior Year, save money, and plan what they would be in their future careers, I began to get paychecks from my $8 an hour doing carry out. They would be immediately spent on large bags of dope, cartons of cigarettes and cases of beer. I had no plan for the future, just a plan to fry my brain and live in the spirit of carpe diem. If I had only known then what it would lead to…