No Substitute for Chopsticks

When you work with someone for nearly two decades, you have a lot of stories. At least four or five, anyway. Here’s another one about Joe, and oddly enough, lunch and an Asian restaurateur. And if you think I’m picking on Asians, relax. I’m half-Chinese, so it’s okay. Well, 38% anyway, according to my DNA profile on On behalf of 38% of the billions of people who look like me, I give you permission to engage in good-natured observations of Asians. This story doesn’t really have anything to do with Asians, actually. There just happens to be one in it. Make that one and a half. It doesn’t really have anything to do with advertising, either. Just lunch in an advertising agency. In fact, you won’t learn a single profitable thing from this story, but maybe you’ll get a laugh heading into your weekend.

At the agency’s previous building, you took an elevator up to the fourth floor where the offices were. The agency was in sort of a rough part of town. It was okay, but a bit embarrassing to have existing clients and prospective new clients ride up in an elevator with the word “puta” scratched into the interior elevator doors. Right in the middle. Where you had to stare at it the entire ride up. It was nice to finally move into a nicer building some years later, where the elevator had the word “whore” scratched into it, which was nicer for all our clients who didn’t speak Spanish.

I kid. The new elevator was, and remains, nice and scratch-free.

When you arrived on the fourth floor, the elevator doors opened to the reception area in front of you, but off to the immediate left before you got to the reception desk was an office. That was Joe’s office. Got the mental picture? It’s integral to the story.

We used to order from a Flame Broiler right near us. I’m not even sure it was an official Flame Broiler. It was the same logo and same menu, but it didn’t look anything like a Flame Broiler franchise. It was in an interior food court and run by a nice Asian guy named Richard. We ate there all the time. We would walk over when we weren’t busy, but when we were, we would call over and Richard would deliver to us.

We were working in Joe’s office one fine day, and we called in an order. Joe called over and at the end of the order, he added, “and could you please include chopsticks? Okay. Because you forgot last time. Okay. Okay, thanks.”

About 20 minutes later, Richard delivers our food. He gets off the elevator and just comes into Joe’s office as usual, since he doesn’t have to go through the receptionist. He gives us our food, we pay him, and he leaves.

We open up the food, and as Joe is looking through the bag, he’s getting more and more pissed. He can’t find any chopsticks. He’s muttering at first, then getting louder and louder. “Where the…they’d better be in here…son of a…” Finally he just explodes. “He forgot my f***ing chopsticks again! I’m gonna kick his ass!”

Then Richard’s head slowly appeared in one side of the doorway as he leaned back to look in. He had been standing there all this time waiting for the slow elevator to arrive. His eyes were all big and he looked terrified. “Something wrong, Joe?” he asked tentatively.

I, of course, burst out laughing. Joe was embarrassed and said, “Oh no no, everything’s fine. It’s okay.”

Richard didn’t look too sure, but he didn’t say anything, and then the elevator arrived so he left.

By all means, as you go through life, dance like no one’s watching. But remember to look for chopsticks like Richard is listening.

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