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A stick in time [May. 29th, 2004|10:39 pm]
[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

Unless you show up with a party of eight, Hibachi restaurants are a strangely intimate experience with utter strangers. There is no table to yourself; you get to share the onion-volcano, juggling-spatulas floor show with the next small party that wanders through the door.

At that point, you have two choices: pretend you are in your own forcefield bubble and avoid all contact with your fellow diners, or acknowledge that you are sharing this little spaceship for the next couple hours and make casual conversation. The second method is really the only way to go unless you want to sit stone-faced through the cooking in order to avoid the risk of interpersonal contact (I have seen people do that).

So when we were seated at one end of a table and a family of five seated at the rest, I quickly made first contact in order to avoid that awkwardness. One of the two grammas had never been to Hibachi before, the boy announced, and we smiled at her and nodded.

Another family was seated at the other table in this little cubbyhole of the restaurant, and had been placing their drink orders as we came in. They were celebrating a gramma's birthday and had a gaggle of cousins all squished at one end. There were probably twelve people all together, and their chef arrived only slightly before our chef, meaning no behind-the-back tricks since they were bumping elbows as it was. We cheered their flames and sang along for happy birthday, and soon conversation quieted as food arrived and we all set to.

I noted with some amusement that of all the people at the two tables, Ferrett and I were the only ones using chopsticks. Dinner was almost over when the little boy at our table said to us, "How do you use those things?"

Ferrett started giving a lesson and I chimed in, and pretty soon everyone at our table was making that first thrilling lift of food to mouth. I caught the word "chopstick" from the other table and glanced over to see one of the mothers struggling along. She happened to meet my eye and grinned. "Hey, mind giving a lesson over here?"

Now, this is one of those moments when you have to decide what kind of person you are going to be. Are you quiet and modest, giving a couple small hints from a distance and smiling encouragement, or do you really do what people want you to and go for outrageous?

I went for outrageous. "Out of my way," I commanded of Ferrett, and jumped up, disposable 'sticks in hand, to give a lesson. They were delighted, summoned the kids to pay attention, and I walked them through it while the people at our table called out triumph and encouragement in their own practice. Soon everyone there had a rudimentary idea and the kids were gleefully holding up food, triumphant at beating the grownups. Behind me I heard Ferrett chuckle. "Yeah, she's always like this."

It was maybe ten minutes out of an entire evening. But it was ten minutes that made the evening that much more fun for everyone. The people we remember the most fondly are the ones who took a chance, who weren't afraid of reaching out.

[User Picture]From: cathouse_blues
2004-05-30 03:25 am (UTC)
I've always loved tepanyaki joints. When we were on Okinawa, the locals who worked as chefs at the tepanyaki joint on base also seemed to be somewhat amused by the Americans' wide-eyed enthusiasm.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 05:09 am (UTC)
Dinner and a show! Who could fail to be amused?

Well, there was that poor baby at another table who got scared to death by the fireball trick. Poor darling had to be taken out of the restaurant, but she looked to be only about 7 months old. [g]
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[User Picture]From: crystalvh
2004-05-30 03:28 am (UTC)
That is such a great story. Sounds like if you ever decide to get out of the law profession, you would make an excellent teacher :-)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 05:11 am (UTC)
Interestingly enough, while I am perfectly happy meeting people and more than willing to speak up in class, standing up in front of people and speaking terrifies me. I can't stop shaking. I suppose I would get used to it, but thusfar I have never been in a situation where I was "on stage" that it didn't make me a wreck. Even karaoke, though I still keep doing it.

This irritates me about myself.
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[User Picture]From: kalieris
2004-05-30 03:31 am (UTC)
I am an utter sociophobe, and would probably be one of those stone-faced types. Enforced communion with strangers is my personal vision of hell.

Admittedly, though, this is a terribly boring and lonely way to go through life. And, you just managed to take away my coping mechanism by not only commenting on it, but by planting the subversive idea that doing things a different way *might be fun*.

Darn you. Darn you to Akron.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 05:13 am (UTC)
Akron!? Was it really that bad? [g]

It's actually easier with strangers in those situations, if you think about it. You have no obligation to ever see them again, so you don't have to worry about whether you'll like them or have anything in common.
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From: ex_leopardp
2004-05-30 03:56 am (UTC)
That's wonderful. I probably would have done the same thing, being the social beast that I am.

How wonderful and extremely classy. But then, you always were a class act!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 05:16 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks! I just think it's better to go through life smiling over the things that you have done than looking back with regret over the things that you didn't dare.
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[User Picture]From: mishamish
2004-05-30 06:19 am (UTC)
Hehe... Crash and I had a somewhat similar experience recently at Sakura on Detroit. We were sitting at the bar and a couple came in and waited on a surprise birthday party... at about the time that our MONDO BOAT OF SUSHI came out. Between mouthfuls, we informed of the finer points of sushi (usually comments along the lines of "Mackerel is good... Salmon roe is good... Shrimp is VERY good..." Much fun was had by all, even though we couldn't convince them to get the sashimi appetizer.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 01:28 pm (UTC)
As a recent convert to the ways of sushi, I applaud you in your efforts!
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[User Picture]From: lothie
2004-05-30 06:47 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: theonlykow
2004-05-30 06:49 am (UTC)
I sit stone-faced for the most part, but I've only been with my parents so I generally have a book and don't care about the cooking. I suck, I know. I'm there for food, not a show.

Mmm, Seafood Diablo.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 01:31 pm (UTC)
Not for the cooking?! That's half the fun! [g]

If you're occupied, then I suppose it isn't so bad. It's the peole who have noting to do who are the most awkward.
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[User Picture]From: happydog
2004-05-30 08:14 am (UTC)
excellent observation, as usual!
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[User Picture]From: scarletdemon
2004-05-30 09:43 am (UTC)
Hehehe...Yeah I always get involved. Dave used to be shy but he's given up now...I always make us part of the group ;).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 01:33 pm (UTC)
It's just so much more fun.
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[User Picture]From: call_me_harmony
2004-05-30 02:08 pm (UTC)
Ferrett might have got first dibs at this one but you told it better. Way to go Ginny.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 02:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you. But, please, it's "Gini." I intensely dislike that other spelling. I know it's petty of me, but people are doing it to me at work all the time and it drives me crazy.
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[User Picture]From: kuangning
2004-05-30 02:35 pm (UTC)
*grins.* I've only ever been once, and that was with my eldest, Logan, in tow. I might have been shy, but he saved the evening.

"Is he going to be okay with fire?"
"Oh, yeah. ... he might try to blow it out, though."
*fwooosh* ... and the flames blazed higher than his head, right in front of him.

I've never seen a two-year-old's eyes get that wide since. He leaned back in the chair, his mouth dropped open, and he uttered a tiny, breathy "whoa..." that made all the adults, who were, by now, waiting for the screaming to start, burst into laughter. How can you not be friends after that? ;)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 02:42 pm (UTC)
Like I said elsewhere, there was a baby at another table whose reaction was of the terrified tears variety, poor darling. That is so cute, though! Kids are great.
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From: grailquestion
2004-05-30 05:12 pm (UTC)
And what does all this mean?

It means we have to do hibachi together, that's what. Add it to the ever-increasing list.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-30 05:14 pm (UTC)
An excellent idea! And, yes, the list is getting VERY long.
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[User Picture]From: jcatquince
2004-05-31 03:45 am (UTC)
That is so cool! I think chopsticks are wonderful. Two sticks of wood, and you can eat, defend yourself, have fun brandishing them...
I recently went all out and ordered a fancy pair from Japan through Jbox.com. Just the chopsticks, though. I think it's a great site.


I would really love to get at least one of the blue bento boxes. They are just to cute.
Plus, I need to try sushi sometime. I've heard about how good it is.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-31 02:53 pm (UTC)
Wow, those are great, and the prices aren't bad at all. Thanks for the link!
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[User Picture]From: ladycathead
2004-05-31 03:35 pm (UTC)
We went to Hibachi for the first time not too long ago. I had no idea you sat at a "community" table but thankfully, I'm an extrovert and that didn't slow me down. It was really cool, and the people we sat with were very nice. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-05-31 03:43 pm (UTC)
Most people are, really, given half a chance.
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