Today I went to get sushi from the little sushi shop (or hut, more like), near the Platform 9 and 3/4 tunnel near St Leonards station. There are 4 people who operate the shop:
1. Head chef (I think). Fatherly figure. Wears glasses, always ready with a smile
2. Main lady behind counter. Quick, business-like, cheerful. Always ready with a smile
3. BBQ beef guy, who mans the BBQ beef station near the front window of the shop. Also wears glasses. Not so quick with the smiles but that’s probably because he’s so busy with this cooking and grilling and bbq’ing.
3. Other lady behind counter. Maaaaaan, this woman is cheery. Always, always, always ready with a smile. She is never NOT smiling.
I walk in dazed. I’ve spent the past 5 hours staring at my computer screen in the office, amending copy for things like bluetooth bracelets and discounted accommodation in Noosa. All I can think of is the unread emails in my inbox, the un-crossed-out items on my to-do list, and the end of the day. I could’ve been standing next to a giraffe, and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Cheery woman, all happy, pops up out of nowhere. No, not really. She popped into my line of vision. She had probably been standing there all arvo, it was the lunchtime rush after all.
Her: Hello hello!
Me, deadpan: Hey there.
Her: What can I get you today?
I’m scanning the sushi display and although I could smash a couple of salmon sushi thingys today, especially with the mayo on them I like, my eyes travel over the head of Cheery Lady and up to the board behind the counter. There’s ramen and udon and bibimbap and other dishes. The ramen looks tasty. I’m intrigued.
Me, to Cheery Lady: I think I’ll have the ramen with chicken?
All of a sudden, Main Lady and Head Chef appear at Cheery Lady’s side. They look concerned.
Main Lady: Are you sure ramen?
Me: Ummm, yeh?
Cheery Lady: You don’t like spice, you say before. Ramen is spicy!
Me: Like, how spicy?
Main Lady: No, too spicy. What about udon?
Me: Ummm … ok
I feel a little defeated. I can’t believe I’m being denied my choice by food, no less! Spice, man! Spice is what gives variety to life, spice is great, there were 5 spicy women in Spice Girls who peppered my experience of the late 90s. What’s a bit of spice gonna do? Also, the image on the board looks a m a z i n g !
Then, like a knight in a chef’s outfit, Head Chef says, What if I make the ramen less spicy?
I’m back on board. Main Lady nods wisely, Cheery Lady’s head nodding is much more enthusiastic. I’m all for it. Load me up, I say bravely. I’m smiling as widely as Cheery Lady now.
My day’s looking brighter. I didn’t sit for 5 bloody hours only to have my lunchtime choice vetoed! Oh no, sir! The universe saw I wanted ramen, and the universe is delivering. The Universe, capital “U”, and all!
In less that 10 minutes, my ramen and noodles with chicken is delivered to me in a takeaway bowl so I can return, triumphant, back to the office to eat slurp soup and noodles at my desk like the hero I am, clearing my inbox whilst simultaneously dying on the inside.
Head Chef hands the bowl over like a proud chef handing over a meal he partially modified to appease a non-balls customer. He says, If it’s still too spicy for you, just add a bit of hot water to it.
I am so touched by this culinary gesture, that I thank you, thank you so much profusely to everyone in there, including the BBQ guy, who had nothing to do with my meal. Head Chef gives me a little chuckle and a wave. Main Lady gives me an Enjoy! before I head out the door. One last look, and Cheery Lady is smiling and nodding intensely in my direction, as if to say, you’llloveityou’llloveityou’llloveityou’llloveit!
Back at the office, I plop down in my seat and peel off the plastic lid. Steam rises from the bowl like a magical expectation. The soup is somewhat red in colour. Dear god, that’s the spice, right? The noodles are loopy and fat and sloppy. The chicken are logs of kastu joy. I’m ready.
The first slurp tells me, yep, I’m cool with this. Not spicy. The second slurp does the same. The third and the fourth, still nothing. I can’t believe this, I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!
I eagerly hack into my noodles. Yum yum yum, everything is all good. There’s a satisfying feeling in the pit of my belly that comes with hoovering down carbs, and it’s happening again with these noodles. I am in my happy place. I’m like Po from Kung Fu Panda when he’s eating. I’m smiling all over.
Then the spice hits me. Not all at once, but it had been building for a while. I try to deny it by slurping down more soup, more noodles, even charging in on the chicken which I had planned to eat halfway through my bowl, but the spice is still there, and it’s not going anywhere. Head Chef told me, f it’s still too spicy for you, just add a bit of hot water to it, but I’m already re-stamping my ass into my seat, and the kitchen is like, over there, so I don’t want to get up for the hot water. I’m going to have to deal with the spice like a grown-up. I’m eating slower now, carefully, so as not to keel over from extreme spiciness.
Ten easy email replies, two medium-ish tasks and 45 minutes later, the bowl of ramen noodles is sitting half eaten to the side of my computer screen. The chicken pieces are gone, they are the only bits not affected by the spice invasion. I should’ve heeded Head Chef’s warning after all.
Later that afternoon, I head out the door to the 7Eleven to grab a Dare Iced Coffee and promise myself to get the udon noodles or the salmon sushi on Monday.
The staff warned me. At least they were nice enough to do that. I’ll go back just for their cheeriness!