I spent everyday of high school working at my parents’ Chinese takeout joint. In Miami, this meant American style Chinese takeout with a Cuban flavor.
I’m standing behind a counter. The phone rings.
“Ah-lo, gimme the five dollar special with, uh, the wings and a side of frijoles.”
“Will that be all?”
“Ok, 10 minutes. Gracias.”
I hang up the phone. I walk through the pink shower curtains that block the kitchen, I pin the receipt to the clothesline, and shout out the order to my parents.
They walk into a freezer, and come back into the kitchen with a plastic tub of marinaded chicken wings and a can of beans. Sweat glimmering on their foreheads. Cloths stained.
I walk back to the counter. I open up my black and white notebook and go back to practicing answers to essay questions about the causes of the French Revolution. AP European History has colonized even a Chinese takeout joint (… of course it would).
A few minutes pass. Cars come and go, in between black security bars that slice the window into fragments of the outside world. They’re mostly here for the Wendy’s, the car cleaning operation under a giant tent, the Subway, the salon… and what else? Probably not the jewelry pawn shop. I’ve never been though, so I can’t assume. Everyone’s still at the plaza because they’re good at selling, right? Maybe it’s just us who’s struggling.
Today we haven’t sold more than ten $5 fried chicken specials. The sweat drips, the clothes pick up more grease every hour. During slow days, my parents take turns napping behind the freezer, in front of the bathroom, next to folded up cardboard boxes and bags of onions. But that doesn’t sell us more fried chicken. It’s a Monday, of course, so things are slow. Mondays must be slow everywhere, right, even at the offices?
I’m scribbling in my notebook while the order sits next to me in a white plastic bag. They better pick it up soon or it’ll get soggy — they might complain and ask for a new one.
“The French Revolution, like so many turning points in history, did not result from one single cause, but rather sprang from a plurality of causes…”
The phone rings. I stop scribbling.
“Hi, Sun Wah Chinese Restaurant, what would you like today?”
“Quiero the $5 special, no camarones in the rice please…”
And it goes on. Day in and day out, this is what it takes to sell $5 fried wings with fried rice, and a side of beans.