The Ironies of Life

by Terry Watada

Editor’s note: While Terry is on his summer hiatus, we decided to look back on his nearly thirty years of writing about and for the Japanese Canadian community and by extension the Asian Canadian community.  We will be reprinting some his columns until his return.

Ah, the ironies of life.  I’m not so enamoured of the major ironies, like the war in Iraq or Dennis Miller as an intellectual, comedic Republican (if there is such a thing).  No, give me the subtle, hidden ones that may upset at the moment of discovery but amuse upon reflection.

Like the Japanese sushi restaurant that resides near Yonge and Eglinton, an upscale part of Toronto.  I and my fellow revellers, one night, picked it for dinner because of the much lauded sushi.  As we walked through the front door, the owner rushed to tell us that they had run out of rice.  It was eight-thirty in the evening but they ran out of rice?  That’s like saying we can’t swim in the Pacific Ocean because they ran out of water.  I mean it’s a sushi restaurant for crying out loud!

The restaurant, which has since gone out of business, is still not as infuriating as a diner on Broadview Avenue near the Danforth where my family and I attempted to have dinner.  The accommodating Italian short-order cook and owner took my order without hesitation.

“Hamburger and soup.”
“No soup.”
“Okay, I’ll just take the burger.”
“No burger.  I ran out of buns.”
“How about fish and chips?”
“No fish.”
“Egg salad sandwich?”
“What do you have?”
“I’ll go and see.”

The other thing about the place that was irritating was its claim to be open until one o’clock in the morning.  At a quarter to nine, the owner urged us to order quickly since he was closing in fifteen minutes.

We gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“Maybe it’s a lunch kind of place,” my wife said rather charitably.  But the lack of menu items continued when next we patronized the bistro.

“Clubhouse sandwich and a glass of milk?” I asked gingerly.
“No milk.”
“No milk?”
“No milk.”
This was beginning to sound like an old Jack Benny routine.  “How about juice?”
“What kind?”
“No orange.”
“No orange?”
“No and I hope you don’t want bacon in that clubhouse.”

First time I ever lost weight at a restaurant.

Other restaurants have misled me with their advertised promises.  My sansei friends and I, after a session of poker, beer and braggadocio, headed for Chinatown at six o’clock in the morning.  We have a tradition that the big winner must treat everyone else to breakfast.  What usually happens is that someone reasons that breakfast doesn’t cost all that much so we should go for a full meal.  Even if the food isn’t all eaten we, the losers, would feel better about … well … losing.

One of us knew of a place open twenty-four hours.  Sure enough the Chinese restaurant was there proudly displaying a sign announcing its tribute to endurance and strategy to make a profit in a restaurant glutted area.

We sat down about six-thirty when the owner informed us there may not be enough time to order, cook and eat the food since they were about to close at seven o’clock.

Dumbfounded, we protested and, somewhere in the language barrier, we discerned that the place was closed between seven and seven-thirty to clean up and get ready for the dim sum crowd.

“So the sign outside lies?”

We stubbornly kept our seats and argued until they relented.  They served us our food and we went away happy while disgruntled workers feverishly swept and mopped later than expected.  The constant and building aroma of ammonia was not pleasant.

By the way, I was the big winner that night, with slightly less money than when I started but happy to know my friends had gone home with bellies full of wholesome, greasy Chinese food.

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