Conversations in a Chinese Restaurant

7 Nov

It is Saturday and we are eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Due to some acoustical anomaly, I can hear the conversations going on at both the table in front of me and behind me.

Behind me are two women; one is older than the other and I deduce the second woman is the older woman’s daughter.

At the table in front of me are two men. The man closest to me has his back turned and I can’t hear anything he is saying. His lunch companion is facing my direction but I can’t see him because his friend’s back blocks my view.

Apparently this man goes on a lot of cruises. “The buffet was outstanding,” he is saying. There is something about his voice that seems familiar, not so much like he is someone I know but more like maybe I have heard him do voiceovers on TV or something.

Behind me the daughter is reading fortune cookie fortunes aloud, “You will go on a short journey and encounter many pleasures.”

“In the bedroom.” I chortle under my breath. I never get tired of that joke.

“What?” says The Boyfriend.


I hear her read another fortune, “Time waits for no man but love conquerors all.”
(“In the bedroom.”)

“With stops in Ixtapa and Manzanillo.” (I know that voice…)

Then The Boyfriend starts talking about electronics or botany or automotive parts or some other not very interesting thing. “Something something alternator coil something something battery temperature…”

“Uh huh,” I reply dipping the battered chicken into sweet and sour sauce.

I hear the woman behind me reading another fortune, “You will have good luck and overcome many hardships”
(“In the bedroom.”)

“Sailed into Grand Turk,” the voiceover guy is saying. (Where have I heard that voice before?)

“Why do you keep saying, in the bedroom?” asks The Boyfriend. Concerned the woman behind me might overhear, I feel I really can’t explain right now. So I lie. “I’m not,” I say using the same voice I would have used to respond to him if he had suggested I was eating batter fried unicorn.

This seems to satisfy him and he goes back to whatever it was he was saying, “Torque converter something something something…”

The lady behind me is reeling off one fortune after the other. They must have bought a whole bag of fortunate cookies. I can barely keep up with the “In the bedrooms.”

“He who hurries cannot walk with dignity”(“In the bedroom”)
“The shortest distance between two people is a smile” (“In the bedroom”)
“Love is like paint…(In the bedroom)It makes things beautiful if you spread it…(In the bedroom)…but it will dry up if you don’t use it.” (In the bedroom!)

“Something something catalytic converter something…”

I fleetingly wonder if I should feel guilty about not hanging on every word my long time companion says. Then I remember early on in our relationship there was an incident wherein I called him on the fact that we had had a conversation about a particular topic and when he didn’t remember anything about it, it was obvious he hadn’t been listening to me.

His defense? “You told me about that at a time I wasn’t prepared to listen.”

That’s right. Because I did not confirm his listening readiness, it was my fault. Well, I can play that game too.

So, there is no guilt. He is talking about mechanical stuff at a time I am not prepared to listen, so it is his own fault that I am tuning him out.

“Nice accommodations,” the cruise guy is going on, (Why do I know that voice?) “Balconies and an open bar.” (Sounds like a dangerous combination to me.)

“You have a strong and sensitive personal nature” (In the bedroom)
“Something something something ball joint something oxygen sensor” (In the bedroom—wait, wrong conversation!)
“Cape Liberty…There was an ice sculpture of a swan.” (Think, think, where have I heard that voice?)

Somewhere between “You understand how to have fun with others and to enjoy your solitude” (In the bedroom) and “Something something output current” it dawned on me.

I know where I have heard that voice before!

Have you ever seen one of those interviews on TV when the person who is being interviewed doesn’t want to compromise his identity so the TV people digitally alter his appearance and his voice? This guy sounded just like one of those digitally altered voices.

Maybe, I conjectured, he is in the witness protection program and the government has digitally altered his vocal cords. It could happen.

I hear the women behind me move their chairs and I speculate correctly that they are leaving. As they walk past our table the younger woman turns to the older and says, “Follow your dreams and you will have a most pleasant journey.” I realize she isn’t reading a fortune. Maybe she never was.

The Boyfriend has apparently exhausted whatever the hell subject it is that he was going on about. He pushes his plate away and we make the silent agreement that we are ready to go.

As we pass by his table on our way out the door, I take a glance at the digitally disguised voice guy to see what he looks like. This is what I see:

Somehow I am not surprised.

We go out the door, passing the two women who are standing and talking. The younger woman is saying, “An open heart is like a rose—both are most beautiful when fully open.”

I mutter one last, “In the bedroom” as I open my car door.

The Boyfriend and I pull out of the restaurant parking lot and head toward home.

“Next time, lets have Mexican,” I suggest.

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