I love Chinese take-out. Who can complain, when most places will just bury you in sweet/spicy/sour chunks of prepared animal flesh (and maybe some vegetables if you're into that kind of thing) for under $10 an entree? Unfortunately, most of my experience with ordering Chinese food over the phone has been negative, although not life-threateningly so. I don't know if it's the way I talk (rather low and quiet) or what, but I generally have a difficult time explaining exactly what it is that I want. You can assume the person you're talking to is speaking decent English (or why the hell would they answer the phone), but they usually have some trouble understanding me over the phone, and nothing is more frustrating than trying to circumnavigate a language barrier. It just makes me feel stupid. I don't think "how dare you not understand me," I think "why the hell can't I convey this!" Sometimes I feel like I am somehow insulting the other party by failing to making myself intelligible to whatever degree they require. I have some experience trying to learn a second language, and most difficulties in speaking arise when one has to deal with someone who talks too fast, too slow, or too quietly to make any sense out of the discrete words coming from their mouth.

So last night when I called the local place and they promptly answered the phone with something I simply couldn't understand, I began to (silently!) sigh in frustration. I said "this is for delivery," and was promplty put on hold. Shortly after, to my amazement, some white guy answered. Mind you, I'd hate to be pegged as a racist, but my sigh became one of relief when I realized I should be able to pull this off with little difficulty.

So I briefly went over my order. Sweet and sour shrimp, with egg drop soup, and steamed rice. Sesame chicken, also with egg drop soup, and steamed rice. Simple enough, right? "So I've got uhh, sweet and sour chicken, and sesame chicken." "No. It's sweet and sour SHRIMP, and sesame chicken." "Oh ok, all right. Sweet and sour shrimp." Whew. Quick and painless.

Within an insanely short amount of time the food arrives. Chinese restaurants seem to be total badasses about getting food delivered within 10-15 minutes. I pay and tip the driver, who seems to be the same guy I talked to on the phone. He leaves, I begin digging in. I open the sweet and sour shrimp (which was for my girlfriend) and think "Gee, they sure gave us a fuckload of tiny fried shrimp bits...no...wait a second...THIS IS CHICKEN!" Motherfucker.

Moral of the story: just because you're talking to someone who can perfectly understand your English doesn't mean you're talking to someone who isn't a dolt, someone who can't comprehend "sweet and sour shrimp" because they've heard the phrase "sweet and sour chicken" one too many times that day. Damnit. The price reflected the fact that indeed, the person taking the order made the mistake. In all of my difficulties speaking with Chinese restaurant staff, I've never actually had an order made wrong until now.


Yes, I realize I didn't technically eat "take-out" per se. Shoot me. But be merciful, and aim for the heart.

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