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Shrimp Salad with Secret Asian Dressing

On Friday I went down to Cosi for lunch. I had the Shrimp Salad Chinoise, which was my first mistake. People, I do not need the dressing on my salad to taste like the coating on a candied apple. It renders said salad inedible.

Anyway, so I went to pay for my salad and was dismayed to be greeted at the checkout counter by the Cosi employee whose Indian name is clearly Tries-Too-Hard. Tries-Too-Hard is one of the main reasons that I avoid going to Cosi in the first place. She weirds me out. Her level of enthusiasm is simply excessive. First, there is no reason to feign intimacy with me at the checkout line. Do not tell me that it has been a long time since I’ve been in to buy food. I know that. My lunch is not improved by you reminding me that you have noticed my absence. Second, it’s ok to ask “How are you today?” – as that is now standard server-customer conversation and both sides know that it’s just a nicety and means nothing. However, once I say “Fine, thanks. And you?” – please do not follow up your question by leaning forward and saying, slower, and with more meaning, “No. HOW ARE YOU?” That is just creepy.

This past Friday, Tries-Too-Hard broke both of these simple rules. She reminded me that it has been eons since my last visit to Cosi (could it be because the food is sub-par?) and then she asked, with too much emphasis, how I was. I said I was fine, thank you. And then things got weird. She asked where I was from. Ok – I should say that this is a question that generally enrages me. To me, it is an inappropriate question as to my national origin and represents someone’s desire to put me in a particular category. Does knowing my racial/ethnic/national origin tell you anything about who I am as a person? Once you know the answer, will you treat me differently? Why do you think you deserve the answer to that question? I get asked this question by strangers most of the time. Sometimes by cab drivers. Sometimes people ask “What are you?” instead of “Where are you from?” Like I said. Don’t appreciate. Enraged.

Anyway. Despite all this, I usually give a little more slack to Asian people who ask it – because usually their motivations are not the same. It’s usually less about deciding whether I’m a mail-order bride and more about figuring out whether I share their ethnic background. Tries-Too-Hard is Asian. She wanted to know whether I was Korean. I said yes. Then she looked over her shoulder, leaned in, and said, “The situation with North Korea is bad, yes?” I wasn’t sure what she was getting at, but I nodded. “Sure, it seems bad.” She lowered her voice and fixed me with serious look. “It’s especially bad for those of us who are here, yes? You know what I mean? You know what I am saying?” “Um, sure…yes, bad. Ok…how much is the salad?” I paid for the salad. She fixed me with another look. “It is bad. You know what I mean? Ok. You take care. Come back.” I backed away and exited the restaurant. Clearly, she was warning me that we were about to be interned. Maybe that is a new Cosi policy.

WTF? People, do not give away Secret Asian Messages with each salad like some Happy Meal toy. I do not need to receive “The dog barks at midnight” messages with my lunch. It weirds me out. It is not good for the digestion. Don’t do it anymore.

That is all.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Jesse Rutledge | July 9, 2006 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    When asked where you are from, why don’t you reply with the obvious show-stopper: “York, Pennsylvania.” That should shut them up. The similarities to Pyongyang are too numerous to count.

  2. Kelly | July 9, 2006 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    In her defense, I think she probably thought that you initiated the conversation — in code — when you placed your order. “Shrimp” refers to the very short Kim Jong Il, “Chinoise” to China’s crucial role in talks with North Korea, and “Salad” … to the bombs he’s trying to *toss* at the U. S.? So all she was doing was following your lead, after you had essentially said to your waitress, “I think that China is the solution to preventing Kim Jong Il from bombing us.”

  3. Miranda | July 10, 2006 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Ah, Kelly. Your devious foreign policy mind is brilliant! I hesitate to ascribe such subtlety and strategic thinking to Tries-To-Hard, but I am willing to consider that she may actually have been attempting to tell me that the salad I just ordered was, in fact, shite.

    As for telling people I’m from York, PA – alas, people here aren’t usually familiar with that particular Hellmouth – so it just doesn’t have the power that it does in the Mid-Atlantic. Why do you think I moved?

  4. Jim | July 11, 2006 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    At the risk of sounding as a crazy as Tries Too Hard, there are actually recruiters for North Korean communist sympathizers in the US. They have a ridiculous amount of funding that they should be using to feed the starving in their own country. Maybe she’s one of them and was feeling you out!

  5. Miranda | July 11, 2006 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Crazy! All I know is I’ll be avoiding Cosi for a good long while…

  6. LD | July 13, 2006 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    a little too cozy at Cosi

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