From Tear Face to Salad Face: Riki Tiki is in the Northwest Now

My life up until two weeks ago was spent running around between different piles of chaos, punctuated by breaks of solitude in my apartment during which I would stare at the ceiling and wonder if I was going to snack or nap. I would then wonder if I could possibly snack while napping, making for a wildly efficient break, and allowing me to reenter the Piles de Chaos as quickly as possible.

All during the month of August, friends were getting married, moving, and coming into town for a visit from having been moved & married. I was also filling last minute pie orders, and trying to deseminate any knowledge I had of my former job into the current employees at beezy’s. I was squeezing out any chance I had to say goodbye to life-long friends I might not see again for a long time. I was getting four hours, or less, of sleep a night. It was all coming to a head in the 3rd week of August when I had to quickly move out of my apartment five days sooner than I thought, and prepare to relocate my body along with a small amount of possessions across the country. My body was falling apart, and my mind was clinging to the essentials in order to keep myself breathing, pooping and eating.

Things were going quite normally.

Things were going quite normally.

I spent a few days living out of a car & crashing on couches – and then I was off. I was off like a bullet…if a bullet had an untied shoelace and landed on its face on the path to its target, and upon reaching, begged kindly if it could be let inside of the target’s soft flesh.

My mind imploded the morning I was supposed to board Spirit Flight 360 to Portland via Las Vegas. I was all set to board Flight 360, departing from Detroit at 2:30 pm. Sadly, for Spirit Flight 360, I had completely made it up. It crashed to the ground at 11:09, when my dad and I, at his house in Ann Arbor, were attempting to check me into Flight 360 online. (Apparently you can also check-in your luggage online as well. You have to scan it in and they print it out on their end, or something.)

I logged onto the Spirit website, and see my flight from Detroit all boarded and ready to take off at 11:10. One minute away. Yet there I was, in Ann Arbor, holding the pieces of my brain in my hands, staring at the computer screen, and gurgling out of my mouth the phrase, “Dad? I think I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

I've wondered what happened to the passengers of Spirit Flight 360. Hope they're all doing okay.

I’ve wondered what happened to the passengers of Spirit Flight 360. Hope they’re all doing okay.

I began my sequence of human emotional expression: smiling awkwardly, laughing, increasing volume, crying, hysterical crying and finally cussing, coming to a precipice of an F-bomb or five, and then descending from there, similar to the plane that landed in Portland at 4:30 pm –  not 6:30 pm, which is the time I had told my new landlords in Vancouver to come pick me up from the airport.

I don’t know how this happened. I had triple-checked the time of my flight for the past month, and every time it said 2:30 pm. But that just never was the case.

We scavenged to book me another flight out of Detroit, and amazingly found one that went through Chicago, and we high-tailed it to the airport. My dad dropped me off, told me he loved me, and I responded with something like, “I love you too. I don’t feel very good. I need to sleep and I’m scared,” and off I went.

Storms were a-brewing over Chicago that day, and my connecting flight got pushed back more and more. They told me that everything was dead in Chicago at the same time, so I should make my connecting flight to Portland, “no prob bob.” But after it got pushed back three hours, I went up to the reticketing booth, where I started tearing up, and they told me they could get me a different flight, on a different airline, that left at 8 pm.

I realized, as I went to go recheck my bags (far more tedious than just scanning them in online), that by the time my flight was going to leave out of Detroit, I should have been landing in PDX. I was feeling more and more sick, and embarrassed that half of the Delta check-in staff had seen me cry. This only made me more sad, and expanded my radius of sadness exposure. I grabbed my two enormous duffle-bags, and did the duffle-shuffle down to the bag drop-off. Again.

I really wanted to blame God, or society, or the President, or an ex-boyfriend for having a real crap day, but it was actually all my fault. I wished I could just go have a beer with my friends, tell them I tried to do something for a few hours, it didn’t immediately work out, and so therefore “I gave up. Hi guys! I’m back!” I imagined they would all be proud of me, and tell me it was a job well-done. (Hopefully they would give me a kick in the pants.) If I went to the Chili’s in Concourse A for a beer & a sob story, no one would feel sorry for me. I had messed this one up. It was me who had decided to go to culinary school in Oregon. It was me who decided to leave my rather happy life behind and try something else out. I had worked my body so hard and made some dumb decisions, and now it was sick and falling apart in Detroit, when I desperately wanted my body in Oregon. And now I was considering picking up the phone and calling my dad to say, “well, I tried. Can I just go home and be 8 years old again?”

When I was 8 years old.

When I was 8 years old.

(Before I go on, let me just say: get your sleep, kids. Things get weird when you don’t sleep. I’ve been getting 8 hours a night since I’ve landed here, and I FEEL SO MUCH MORE LIKE A HUMAN. EYE CONTACT IS LESS WEIRD. DECISIONS FEEL LESS PARALYZING. CAPS LOCK IS STILL JUST AS GREAT, THOUGH.)

A few hours later, I was sitting at another gate for yet another flight to the same place I was trying to get to all day. I met a lady at the gate.

“Why do you think that man has a tail?” She asked.

Up until that point, she’d been quietly eating a tuna salad next to me. I was happy about her silent mastication because I go nuts if I hear people chewing. Especially strangers. She was pleasantly working her way through the pieces of romaine, and cucumber slices, and heap of tuna. Every time she moved a piece of the salad, I’d catch a whiff of the particular item’s smell. That was fun for me. It was like a very boring movie I could watch with my nose.

So she asked me why some man had a tail. It was a weird question, but not the weirdest thing happening at the gate at the moment. Happening concurrently with this olfactory snooping of my neighbor’s tuna salad were people tossing a football on the concourse’s moving walk-way, and at least three people letting their tiny dogs out of their tiny dog carriers to fully investigate exactly what everyone’s shins looked like. The dogs seemed to be flirting with their dreams of bolting away from their owners and starting a new life in the dark underbelly of Concourse A in DTW’s McNamara terminal. Sure, it’s a rough-and-tumble place down there for a tiny dog, but oh, to be free.

What I’m saying is, there were a lot of dogs running around while this conversation was happening, and the flight to Portland appeared to be made up of weirdos-doing-their-own-thing. My neighbor closed up her salad container, and pointed at the man’s butt she was referencing when she asked me “Why do you think that man has a tail?” Sure enough, he had a green towel hanging out of his pants, and one could say it was a tail. This tipped me off that Salad Face had an imagination, and normally I try to stay away from those types in public. They can be dangerous, strange, and even strangerous. But hell, I was starting a new life, as well as hoping that Concourse A was going to be taken over by a gang of tiny dogs, so fuck-it, y’know?

We chatted about different uses for the towel, if he thought he looked sexy with the towel, and then the convo turned into how we were both getting ram-rodded by airports that day. It was nice to hear that somebody else was having a much harder time relocating their body that day than I was. She lived in Portland and had been trying to return for two days, but everything kept getting delayed, and pushed back for her. It kind of made me feel like an idiot for crying all over the place, but I didn’t think about that for long, because thinking about how I’m an idiot often makes me cry more. (ugh.)

Salad Face asked me why I was going to Portland, and I told her I’d be starting culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu at the end of September.

“Oh! Le Cordon Bleu.” said Salad Face. “I live by there. Do you need a place to live?”

 At that point, Salad Face became Gloria, a psychologist from Portland. We exchanged numbers & got on the plane, and didn’t see each other again until today when I came by to look at her house.

Gloria lives in an incredibly beautiful house in Portland, with a dog and a funny cat. And she’s letting me rent a room from her (really, more of an entire floor), and I’ll be able to easily commute to school.

I really can’t believe that I struck gold while waiting for a flight I was only on because I had missed the previous two. Having something so great come from something so frustrating has made me think some pretty deep thoughts, such as like: Shit is crazy sometimes. And sometimes it works out. And then sometimes when it works out, it stops working out. And then it works out again. Or you die. Either way, you’ll die. And maybe shit will work out before you die? Or maybe you’ll just die?



Moving in with Gloria is a few weeks out, and hopefully that all goes according to plan because I am quite excited.

BUT…right now, my adventure is in Vancouver, WA, staying with Wally & Liz. I have so many things I want to say about them. They’re delightful, sweet & caring people with a really fun and cool family. Wally is opening up a microbrewery in their garage. BUT I’LL WRITE ABOUT THAT NEXT.

MERIT AWARD (because I give those out now) goes to my Dad, Herb, for all the support & love he’s given me my whole life, and especially on the way to the airport. You’re awesome, and I can’t thank you enough.

Love you, and miss you all.

Ol’ Riki Tiki


The Customer is Not Always the Wright Brothers

Having a customer base of two people is no way to make a living, even if they did invent the idea of flying in the air. Dream on, restaurentrepreneurs of America. 

But actually, this is about people who make substitutions. Yeah yeah yeah. I know you’ve heard about it before, but if you keep on reading, you’ll hear about it again. 

I posted this on facebook the other day, but I realized it was long enough for a blog – though maybe that’s a wacky stipulation. People generally look for things to read that are short as shit. Good luck getting that from me, people! I’M A FAST TYPER.

I get emotional when someone who regularly makes five weird substitutions to their breakfast order decides it’s time for them to switch it up and do something else. For starts, it was emotional for me in the first place, stumbling through their brain bleeding ticket, trying to figure out in just what ways they don’t want that thing you sell. And you wonder how many hours they spent at home, plotting, sitting in an arm chair, staring at the wall, thinking about how they’re going to get wild with ham tomorrow. 

Then secondly, I get emotional as I try to memorize the ticket and the name, so that next time it won’t take me an extra five minutes to craft their frankeneggwich together, and then myself, them, and the 10 customers behind them can all be happier.

BUT THEN – one day, they walk in, order a new set of substitutions, and it’s all over. They don’t do that crazy thing they invented one cocaine-fueled night. As much as I hated making it, now I feel like I let them down, or that maybe it never mattered in the first place, and they only did it to make me feel weird.

It feels like having a boyfriend turn to you one day and say “look, you’re great, but I want you to wear this clown suit.”
And you’re like “really, homie? That would suck for me.”
And he’s like “really. I mean, you’re just standing there, and here’s a clown suit, just put them together.”
So you do it because you can and why not, and you don’t want a bad yelp review, then after wearing it for months, one day he’s like “clown suit?! Not today! What was a big change for you was just a wacky whim for me! We’re on to penguin suits, sweetie!”

That’s how it feels. But it’s okay. I guess I just want you to be happy.

Just remember, the customer isn’t always right, but they are right there in front of you making unprecedented requests.

I want to stare into the eyes of every customer who makes insane substitutions and just ask Why. Why? What’s the reason behind it? I want to know why they only like one kind of lettuce. Do they LOVE that lettuce? Obviously enough to order a salad that way. I want to know why they ordered me to burn something for them. Why do they need peppers in their scrambled eggs? Did they know we don’t offer that? I want to walk through their ticket with them and ask every reason why I Am Robot, and why they made something up for me to perform for them.

It’s not to be mean. It’s just that, after years of this, I can’t stand the curiosity anymore. I’m forced to assume, and my assumptions are probably far weirder than the truth. 

The other day, someone needlessly subbed out muenster cheese for cheddar cheese in our breakfast burrito, which just seems like a silly thing to do. Muenster isn’t the weirdest choice. People have asked for parmesan cheese  before, for a delicious Italo-Tex Mex fusion breakfast. P.s. I didn’t do it. I said absolutely not, and babbled about moisture contents in cheeses for 20 seconds as to bore them to tears, and distract them from what they thought they wanted.

But muenster cheese just seemed so needless. They were from out of town and had never been to the restaurant before. I didn’t get it. Did the burrito even seem appealing to them? Why pick out a shirt from the rack, cut off one of the arms, and then pay for it? And as I trudged over to the reach-in on the other side of the restaurant to rustle up some muenster cheese, I assumed it must be because cheddar cheese killed her parents. That would be legit to me. You walk into a restaurant, wanting a nice experience and delicious food, see your parent’s killer makes an appearance on a menu item that, for some reason, you still feel like ordering, and decide you should make a switch. Sounds reasonable.

Anyway, I could harp on this forever, and there’s no need. It’s learning how to train customers to be better customers, as my boss always tells me. It’s teaching them that they can trust you to make something more delicious than their expectations, and that their fidgety nervousness is unneeded. People are weird about food, and people themselves are even weirder about themselves. It’s still a delight to cook for people, and most people order unmolested menu items 100% of the time. Hooray!