My Life as A Musical: Every 30 Feet
For dinner tonight in My Life as a Musical we had consensus in the house that we wanted to chow down on some Wok-In, so I strapped on a guitar and headed out to see Johnny and Sling Baby. When I got there the doors were locked but I could see them inside. Sling Baby came running to greet me and his dad followed and let me into the restaurant. They were tearing down, and he explained that he hadn’t seen the video yet but that they would be open tomorrow, but all they had was beef, no chicken. I resisted all my urges to make a joke about tasting like chicken and instead told him I was looking forward to it. Sling Baby ran back and forth, obviously wondering if I was going to play. I shook hands with his dad, the kind where you slap each other’s shoulders and he said “thank you, Rango”.
I reciprocated, bantered with Sling Baby, then went around the corner to Teriyaki Garden. In Seattle there’s a Starbucks every six feet, and a teriyaki joint either built-in or right next to a gas station every 30 feet, and you can typically get your nails done in between. So, cashew chicken, fried rice for RangoDaDog (my boy), nothing for Mistress she’s feeling bad, and won-ton soup. Always soup, people know this, it’s the best food ever invented.
I rescued La Cordoba from the misery of her loneliness in the car and sat in a corner of the restaurant. First challenge: the radio’s playing. Over at Wok-In Johnny always turned the radio off and gave me the floor. Same thing at Urban Coffee across the street. But Teriyaki Garden was clearly digging the radio vibe, so I was on it. I started tracking what was on the radio, quietly, then louder, but tasteful. Some dudes came over and sat right next to me, like 3 feet from my head stock and I recognized one of them from last time at Wok-In. The “mad skills” dude. Some Louie Armstrong came on, and I was feeling it by then so I piled on for the big solo and ripped the thing to shreds. Got some nods and some folks obviously stuck around to hear it. It was fun and I could tell they enjoyed my ability to mimic the melody or anticipate or harmonize with it.
“Cashew chicken, fried rice, won-ton soup…cashew chicken, fried rice, won-ton soup…hey mister, your food is ready”. “Thank you” I said as I grabbed it and headed for the door. She seemed annoyed. When I got home I realized the order ran me $30, about $6 more than Wok-In. And the soup was light about a cup, whereas Johnny’s wife always gave me the same size container and a smaller one for my son for a dollar less, enough for the next day. And this soup, come on lady, it was clearly the bottom of the pot. Johnny’s wife made it fresh <every><time> and you had to wait extra for it. It was superior.
There’s a reason one of those vendors is out of business, and it has nothing to do with the quality of their food, their common decency or how like-able they are. The moral of the story? Charge more, give your customers less, and keep the radio playing. Get rid of the dude with the guitar, and do not invite him back. It’s all about efficiency. The good news? Every 30 feet.