Many walk through the front door of our restaurant and approach my podium to ask for any multitude of things–except for a table, that is.
“Do you have an ATM in here?” No. Around the corner, down the block, across the street. Everywhere, except here.
“Do you know where a [name any bank] is?” Yes. There and there and there and there.
“Can you call me a taxi?” No. It’s easy to hail one out front.
“Can you hail me taxi?” You’re joking, right? No.
“Do you know a good place for a last-minute manicure?” No, not really. (This is now on my list of things to find out.)
“Do you know which of the restaurants around here is the best–except yours?” Well, what kind of cuisine are you interested in? (I cannot tell you how often this subject comes up in person and on the phone.)
“Can I take some matches?” Help yourself.
“Can you tell me how to get to [any tourist or shopping destination]?” Yes, go here, then there, then a few more blocks past there.
“Any gas stations nearby?” How low on gas are you?
But the most intriguing request, so far, came last week was from an older woman who spoke with a thick German accent: “Good morning. My brother-in-law is very sick and one of his last wishes is to have a lunch of [something unintelligible].”
I was somewhat taken aback and totally unable to understand what she was asking for. “I’m sorry he is sick. What is it that he wants to eat?” I asked, peering over her shoulder to see if the brother-in-law was waiting outside the front door.
“Ka—? I’m so sorry. I didn’t get that last part.”
“Ach. My accent. You know, kapowing?” She gestures like she is shooting at her head.
Lord have mercy. What is this dish? Sounds like Thai, maybe?
“I’m guessing you want a Thai dish, ma’am. There are a couple of Thai and other Asian restaurants close by.” I rattled off directions. I also wrote down the name of the dish on one of our cards, spelling it out phonetically, so she could show it to the various restaurants.
“And, Ma’am, is your brother-in-law with you? Would he like to come in?” I smiled.
“Ach, no,” she laughed. “He is in Brazil! I am taking this to him.”
A carryout meal to Brazil?
“Really! All the way to Brazil? How will you keep it fresh?” I was now having an I-cannot-believe-I-am-having-this-conversation moment.
“Yes. I have thought of that! I will ask for it to be packed, just so,” she gestured with a wrapping-up motion. “Then my hotel will freeze it. I will pack it in ice. By the time I reach Brazil, it will be frozen. But fresh.”
“Well, that is wonderful!” I smiled some more. “Just great. Good luck. I’m sure you’ll find that dish very soon.”
“And thank you!” she smiled, more broadly. “You are my first stop. I told the taxi to wait. We go on now.”
God bless that brother-in-law.