STRANGER DIRECTIONS

Ever had to tuck away the pride, steal some courage, and ask a random stranger for directions? Only to find yourself lost because you didn’t ask enough questions before dashing off, worried about inconveniencing and interrupting someone? Or the person giving the directions gave you general descriptions like ‘turn left at that store with the red door’ or ‘two lefts and a right’, and you were too embarrassed to admit you needed more information?

I suffered from this very same problem while at a shopping food court. Sometimes you gotta push aside those feelings of disquiet, and ask more than one question to get your answer.


The woman takes a bite from her fried chicken parcel. She closes her eyes momentarily as though she’s savouring the taste sensation that’s exploding in her mouth. There is a look of satisfaction on her face as she picks up a napkin to swipe at the crumbs that peppers her lips. I can only imagine the gratifying crunch as she takes the next mouthful. I’m frozen, mid fork to mouth, captivated by the food porn playing in front of me. She looks like she’s having a foodgasm. I want one! Heck, I want two!

I look down at my pitiful meal. Six lumpy, doughy and dry gyozas sit on some wilted lettuce. Not even a soy sauce drowning can rescue these mediocre dumplings. Food envy. That’s what I’m feeling. How can I eat these now? I throw down my fork in disgust. Maybe if I hadn’t witness the ecstasy flitting across the woman’s face, these concrete blocks would be churning my insides now.

A moment later, I find myself standing in front of the woman, propelled forward in a trance-like state, chicken on the mind. Like a weirdo, I say nothing for a good few seconds before pointing at the oversized fried chicken fillet in the blue cardboard packet in her hands.

The woman stops eating, swallows her food and looks at me with a mixture of confusion and curiosity. “Can I help you?”

Nodding like a dashboard toy, I breathe out, “Can you tell me where you got that please?”

She stares at me, not sure what to make of my strange behaviour. “Um, it’s at the entrance as you walk in. Near the newsagent.”

“Uh huh. Front entrance. Got it,” I reply, nodding in understanding.

Armed with one tiny morsel of information, I drag the family in search of the entrance that would lead to scrumptious chicken delight. We traverse through the weekend crowd and reach our destination, only to find a boutique toy store instead.

“Which entrance did she say?” queries Gary. “Did you get the name of the store?”

“Mum! I’m tired. I wanna go home!” whinges Mandy, leaning on Henry’s pram like a limp rag doll.

“Uh, I think it was something like… Hot Chicken? Hot Spice?” I reply. I can’t believe I didn’t even get the name! I can’t believe I didn’t ask which entrance! Why didn’t I ask more questions? I should have gotten a map! Why was I so stupefied?

After twenty minutes of circling around, I’m sweaty, frustrated and hangry. The kids and Gary are giving me death glares, and I keep promising to leave soon. Eventually, a Henry tantrum forces me to give up, admit defeat and turn for home.

It’s been a few weeks since I first glanced at the holy grail of the almighty chicken. Occasionally, I find myself wondering about that elusive crumbed goodness. It could have been the best thing since sliced bread, but I’ll never know.


Note: The above post was written a while ago. After some Magellan-type exploration, searching high and low, I eventually discovered the true location of my deepest desire.

The verdict? Let’s just say that some things are better left to your imagination because the reality is far less impressive.


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

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LIVE WITHOUT A NET

I am a control freak. It’s a coping mechanism, a safety behaviour, an intolerance of the uncertainty, that makes me want to take charge of all situations to ease my anxiety over not having control of the unknown. These vicious cogs of anxiety have me worrying over hypothetical situations, ruminating and overanalyzing interactions, and avoiding any circumstances that may induce negative feelings. Unchecked over the years, my brain has learnt that to eliminate the symptoms of anxiety, I must either avoid anxiety-producing situations or have complete control. You can imagine how tiring being me is, can’t you?

Part of my personal growth has been working on breaking the negative internal dialogue through graded exposure; small steps to challenge my fears. With that in mind, I left the organising of my father’s birthday dinner to my younger brother. I had relayed my wishes for an early dinner for the kids, and he already knew of Gary’s dietary restrictions, so it was simply a matter of booking a restaurant. There was no need for the control freak to loom her ugly head. What could go wrong?


We’re ten minutes late.

“Ugh, they’re late,” I groan as we enter the Korean BBQ restaurant. It’s a helluva lot warmer than standing outside in the cold.

“You have a booking Ma’am?” asks the waiter, standing at the entrance.

“Yes, it’s under Andy,” I reply, stamping my frozen feet to elicit some warmth.

“I can’t see anything under that name Ma’am,” informs the waiter. “Are you sure you have a booking?”

I call my brother and let him sort it out. The waiter walks to his podium, checks his book and shakes his head. He returns and hands back my phone. “Sorry Ma’am.”

I stare at him in confusion as I put the phone to my ear. “Hey Sis, sorry they got the date wrong. I’ll find another place and text you the details.”

So I bundle the family back into the car and wait for his text. Breathe. No big deal. Happens to all of us (not me). It’s still early, and the kids have yet to show signs of the dreaded hangry. Hungry and overtired kids make any outing a nightmare.

“Why didn’t I bring snacks?” I wonder. “This is exactly why I should always have snacks on me, like a vending machine.”

I’m only mildly anxious at this point. At least we are warm in the car.

Meet at Japanese Teppanyaki.

We head to the new restaurant and luckily it’s only ten minutes away. The detour has delayed dinner by a smidgen. It’s raining cats and dogs by the time we’re parked. We make a dash for the front door. The wind is fierce and icily cold. I get to the entrance of the restaurant, Henry weighing heavy in my arms, to find the doors unmoving. I peer into the restaurant to find the lights off and not a single employee in sight.

“Why did you leave the car? It’s freezing,” Andy stutters, shivering from the cold as he reaches the door.

“What are you talking about? Why is this place closed?!” I yell, frustrated at the turn of events.

We rush over to the nearby gazebo and take cover from the unrelenting rain. Gary has been tasked with the job of getting our jackets, an umbrella, the kid’s water bottles and Henry’s baby bag. I’m in anxious terrain now.

“It’s not open until six p.m. I thought I told you,” Andy replies, looking sheepish. “Sorry about the booking.”

“No you did not tell me, otherwise we would be in the car!”

“Relax,” Gary returns with our things and tries to calm me as I continue my rant, “we only have to wait ten minutes until it’s open.”

Eventually, we’re inside and dinner ensues. The cook is wearing a red toque and samurai-print robe, his belt fitted with several knives, and pepper and salt grinders. He performs a myriad of cooking tricks. Instead of looking entralled with his performance, Mandy just looks bored. She doesn’t even bat an eyelid when the salt grinder is flicked into the cook’s torque hat.

“Want to see fire?” the cook asks, looking at everyone for their approval. He lights the oil with some water and a whoosh of fire shoots up into the air.

Henry jerks back in fear before crying uncontrollably and screaming out “I’m scared! I don’t want the fire!”

For the remainder of the meal, Henry clings to me like a koala baby to its mum, while I desperately try to coax him into eating some overpriced meat. Mandy is slumped over her meal, tired and uninterested. It’s like she’s seven going on fifteen-years-old.

“Who wants to catch some egg?” the cook asks, holding some omelette on his spatula.

My brother and his girlfriend catch their egg on the first attempt. They make it look easy. I decide to step out of my comfort zone and agree to participate.

The first attempt has the egg flying past my face and landing on the floor. Ok, so if at first you don’t succeed, you try again. The second shot lands next to my mouth and falls off. I am so close that the cook insists on another go. The third bounces off my left eye and drops unceremoniously onto my plate. The cook gives up. He’s probably never had anyone as unco as me. In all honesty, I think it’s in my best interest to stop. I only have two eyes and my left eye is tearing up, ready to shut up shop. I gave it a go (three, to be precise) and that’s all that matters.

We end the night with a bill of over five hundred dollars and a drive-thru to KFC for a top up.


What did I learn from this experience? While there were some anxiety-producing moments, I think I coped rather well. The outcome of unforeseen events wasn’t catastrophic; we found another place (although more expensive), the kids were fed (eventually) and went to bed a little later than usual, and no one was worse off for standing in the cold. I climbed a step towards my goal of breaking the cycle of anxiety. Overall, a good achievement for me.

Does that mean I’ll let my brother book another family function? Of course not.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING

What makes a parent embarrassing to a child? How do you know when you’ve entered lame territory? Are there signs, like increased rate of facepalms and eye rolls? Or do you just reach an age where you lose your sensibilities and become an ‘at risk’ embarrassing parent? I’d like to know because if my children requests that I walk three metres behind them, I’ll have failed. So far, I’m still in the ‘cool beans’ category, but only barely. I’m hanging on by a thread, but I have hope because I’m nowhere near as embarrassing as my folks. They have set the example for parental embarrassment.

My mother will:
– shamelessly haggle for a dollar discount (every dollar counts!)
– blatantly inspect and tastes unpaid fruit from stands (how else will she know if the fruit is sweet?)
– brazenly elbow and push to get in front of any line (as she waits for no-one)
– pay with a bag full of small coins, taking time to count each one (because all vendors need small change)
– refuse to put cooked rice or food in the fridge (why wouldn’t you want to save on fridge space and what’s Listeria?)
– show up unannounced and leave us a jug of her unwanted tangelos and oranges (there’s irrefutable evidence left, sticky counters and floors)

My dad will:
– forgo a shower for some wet toweling (you don’t ever want to accidentally use his towel!)
– multitask like a pro with eating and talking (just don’t sit directly in front of him)
– double park (because it’s the council’s fault that there aren’t more car parks)
– shout out ‘Hey’ and do an octopus wave to get a waiter’s attention (imagine how much extra flavouring his meals must get!)
– bring out his karaoke machine with any visitor (because everyone needs to hear those vocals!)
– FaceTime or WhatsApp his family members constantly (because obviously they’re interested in an update every half hour)

So you see, I know embarrassing. I understand what it means to have embarrassing parents. I mean, who else has had their dad talk about his penile problems to their future in-laws on the first meeting? Who’s had to make excuses so friends don’t come over because their dad has six fish tanks and sometimes walks around in his boxers that he mistakes as acceptable summer wear? Even the grandkids are saying how embarrassing they are!

***

Gary is attempting to move my mum’s car from our driveway. The deafening wail of car alarm can be heard.

“Oh that’s your dad’s car alarm. Tell Gary to press the car key button twice,” my mum dismisses.

I go outside to tell Gary her instructions. He looks frustrated and furiously punching both buttons. The alarm is so loud that I have to yell in his ear. The neighbours have started to come out to witness the commotion. We can’t get the alarm to stop. My mum shows up, and she starts pressing the buttons in the same way. Nothing. By now, we’re just standing there covering our ears. Eventually, my dad comes out with the kids. My dad smacks the car key against the door a few times and swears a ton before the alarm cuts off.

“Easy. That’s how you do it,” my dad exclaims with triumph. He leans into the car and rummages around.

“It happens every time I try to get in the car. It’s so annoying!” my mum complains.

I can only stare in wide-eyed amazement. Is he for real? He practically had to kick down the door. This aftermarket car alarm is probably going to explode. I take a step back. I peek around to see the neighbours shaking their heads and returning to their abodes.

My dad pulls out a black foam block and passes it over to me. “Here, I got you a foam cushion for your car seat so you can see over the steering wheel.”

“Dad, I do not need a cushion. My seats can be adjusted,” I tell him, rolling my eyes in the process.

“You want the back massager for your seat?” he offers, pointing to the monstrosity attached to his car seat.

“Uh no.” Seriously?! Who gets a back massage while driving?

“How about next time, we’ll come to visit you?” I mutter. “On second thought, how about we always come to visit you from now on.”

***

I wonder if history will repeat itself. Will I be my own brand of embarrassing to the kids when I’m older? Nah, no one can top my parents in the embarrassing department.
 

 

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