Writing Because I Can’t Work At A Chinese Restaurant

At the start of my retirement, I have the chance to chase my dream of writing a book. I’m fortunate to have this sort of adventure and blessed with the support I’ll need to make it happen.

Support doesn’t equate with words on the page. Those have to come from me. Some days the words don’t come. By “some days”, what I mean is “a lot of them until recently”. Fortunately, what I mean by “until recently” is that I’m finally getting some chapters drafted that make sense.

But this isn’t about me writing a book. This is about when I wasn’t writing a book and how I regained my focus.

When the book wasn’t rolling at all, I thought about dropping the idea. More than once I voiced those thoughts; I always got a smile and a gentle “not yet” that sent me back to the keyboard. Still, the words didn’t flow. Frustration did. I spent some of my writing time looking at want ads. I was so discouraged that I started making notes to help assemble a résumé.

Kung-Fu Movie Night

“Hmm. your form is good” ” Yes, but I must kill you to avenge my master” (image via

And then came Kung-Fu movie night.

One of the things most of you don’t know about me is that I love old Kung-Fu movies. I know that they’re awful. That’s part of their appeal. They’re not for everyone, so some evenings when I’m alone I order Chinese take out and stream a movie with Shaolin in the title.

On a recent Kung-Fu movie night, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner. There was a help wanted sign on the door.

Have you ever seen a help wanted sign at a Chinese restaurant? Me neither. But there it was. And as I sat there, waiting for my dinner to come out, I thought about the help wanted sign. I wondered what it would be like for me to interview for a job waiting tables in this place.

I Was Looking For A Job When I Found This One

Restaurant owner: You really want to work, here?

Me: Yes.

Owner: Well, this is unprecedented.

Me: Really? No one has ever applied for a job here?

Owner: It’s just that you’re not…well, perhaps it’s better that I say it’s just that we’re all…it’s just, you’re not what we’re looking for.

Me: But you really haven’t asked me any interview questions.

Owner: Fine. Tell me about your work experience.

Me: Well, I was a police officer for twenty-eight years and I specialized in hostage negotiation for twenty-two. I also…

Owner: Did you ever negotiate in Mandarin?

Me: Mandarin, like those little canned orange slices?

Why are mandarin oranges the only canned citrus fruit? (image public domain – wikimedia)

Owner: Yeah, Sparky, like the orange slices. Your food is ready. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Of course, if you want more food, you should call us.

Write, Or Get A Job Peeling Tiny Oranges

As it turns out, my food was ready at about the same time my imaginary job interview ended.

While I drove home, I thought about the interview. If I couldn’t get through an imaginary job interview with a Chinese restaurant manager whose conversational style was oddly similar to my own, my prospects out in the world were not very good. The book, if I could get it out of my head, would be very good.

And so I started working on the book again the next morning. The dry spell ended. I’m going to give myself a fair shot to make this book thing work. It can’t be harder than learning Mandarin, can it?

The dream lives.

So does my smile.


26 Comments on “Writing Because I Can’t Work At A Chinese Restaurant”

  1. Ned's Blog says:

    It’s probably best the interview didn’t progress much farther than it did. One, because it was just the nudge you needed to get back to the keyboard. And two because — and I’m speaking from experience — the next part of the interview would’ve required you to snatch a pebble from his hand.

    I’d just stick to eating the Chinese food and watching crazy Kung-Fu butt kicking. Leave the rest to the professionals — and keep those keys tapping 😉

    Best wishes on the book

  2. lbwoodgate says:

    “Have you ever seen a help wanted sign at a Chinese restaurant? Me neither. But there it was.”

    This only occurs when all of the relatives have proven worthless or moved on to advance their own career. But still, this seldom happens. This guy must have a small extended family.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    The dream is a reality. I’m at the top of the list for that book you WILL write. I can’t wait. It will be exciting, Oma! I’d hate a job peeling mandarins, by the way. I mean the fruit, not the people.

  4. Betty says:

    Every Chinese restaurant in my area is staffed with people who arrive together in a van from Queens, NY. That’s how a lot of nail salons are staffed too. None of the employees live in CT.

  5. knace says:

    Since his retirement, the hubs and I(but mostly the hubs) have watched so many Kung Fu movies via Netflix streaming that we have convinced ourselves we can now discern the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin dialects. I figure in a few years we’ll be fluent and then maybe we’ll move to Shanghai and open a little mom and pop American food place. I was thinking we could specialize in hot dogs, funnel cakes and crab Rangoons (since I’m pretty sure your average Chinese on the street has no idea what a crab Rangoon is) I would totally hire you!
    – Although I’m sure you’ll be on a book tour by then. =)

    • omawarisan says:

      If you can do a really good hot dog the world will beat a path to your door, even in Shanghai.

      I’ll come do a book signing, but I want two, with kraut and brown mustard.

  6. Dan Hennessy says:

    Take the job and set a precedent . Next book: How I Changed the World .

  7. Wouldn’t it have been cool to open your fortune cookie and read, “You will soon be serving sesame chicken, no rice, extra soy, for $6.25 plus tips”?

    So, I’m out of the loop on a lot, but I was just looking at an old post of mine, so old in fact that your gravatar has grown hair. I thought I’d come check that out. I remain amused at a “wavelength” coincidence — it has to do with “Sparky,” but it’s a long story and this is a long comment.

    Congratulations on the return of the words. “Writing and deleting” is an important, if painful, part of the writing process. Darn, you’re good.

  8. Please don’t tell anyone but, I love Kung-fu movies too. OK…there…I feel better now someone knows…glad I got that monkey off my back.

  9. Debbie says:

    Hang in there, Oma. Writing a book is hard work but rewarding. Probably much more so than going home every night smelling like Chinese food!

  10. You like Kung Fu? I’m going to need you to watch Kung Fu Zombie and tell me what you think.

  11. I feel compelled to ask you if you’ve read “The War of Art”? It is my favorite inspirational and useful book on staying motivated to write (or pursue any artistic endeavor). Those dry spells and doubts are real and plentiful, but clearly your creativity and way with words will see you through!

  12. Jean says:

    Enjoyed your anecdote. If you REALLY wanted to work in a Chinese restaurant most likely you could land a job in NYC..but probably working with someone with complementary sense of humour.

    And you’ll learn lots…You would. And it has nothing to do with learning even a smidgen of Chinese language.

    Ask my partner….he’s German.

  13. lorlinda says:

    Hi Blurt,
    You remind me of one of the characters “Matt” in my book. He’s a cop whose real passion is comedy. In his off time he does stand up. His comedy is his survival/coping mechanism. In his act, he pretends to be a cop, and while he’s on duty in real life he gets his material for that night’s show. The working title of my book is “Soul Sisters” but don’t let that fool you, guys can be soul sisters too. Best of luck to you and your book. Lorlinda

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