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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Very ‘Chilly’ Reception

Well, so much for the new Chinese restaurant in town. It’s been open a week, and now I can never order from them again. I think that might be some kind of record.

(Wait, nope. Peed in a Little Caesar’s dumpster three hours into its grand opening.

To be fair, that’s a little different. I was working there at the time.)

Anyway, this Chinese joint and I didn’t see eggroll-to-eggroll from the very beginning. I made my first order online last Friday night — deftly managing once again to have things brought to me without actually speaking to other humans.

You think that’s just a “quirk”. It’s actually a really good personal policy for me. As you’ll see in a moment. Keep your knickers cinched.

An hour or so after I ordered, the doorbell rang. And that’s where the moo shu started hitting the gai pan.

You see, we have this Post-It stuck to the wall by the doorbells in the vestibule. I didn’t stick the Post-It there myself; it was one of the upstairs neighbors. But, with scant exception, visitors to our humble set of condominial abodes heed the message of the note. And that message is:

PLEASE DO NOT RING DOORBELLS MORE THAN ONCE!!

I’m not even sure why the sign is there, exactly. I don’t mind if people ring more than once, if they’re reasonably civil about it. Maybe there are small children or sleeping dogs or half-baked souffles in the units upstairs — what, I’m supposed to talk to these people about their lives now? Sorry, I exhausted myself reading the Post-It. Maybe next year I’ll be social. Maybe.

The point is, bell-ringers are asked to ring once. And mostly, they do. Even the postmen, which — from what I understand — takes a superhuman feat of restraint. So, good for them. And all we mostly hear when a caller arrives is a lonely, sing-song:

DING-DONG!

One ring. No more.

Now, to be fair, the guy from this new Chinese food outfit probably didn’t ring more than once, technically. But he did lean his soy-greasy little finger on the bell, hard, jolting me off the couch with an insistent:

DING-DING-DING-DIN-DIN-DIN-DI-DI-DI-DI-DOOOOONG!!

Strike one for General Tso.

I hustled my butt into the hallway — lest the barrage of DINGs decide to DONG my door again — and found the mad ringer standing outside the security door, bag of food in hand. I opened the door, said “hello” and the Asian fellow clutching my dumplings responded with:

Whayuname?

I was unfamiliar with this particular greeting. But it was a new takeout joint; perhaps they had their own strange set of customs. So I cheerfully replied, in the only Mandarin I know:

Aloha!

That didn’t seem to do the trick. He scowled and barked:

You name! Wha’ you name?

Fine. Now I knew what the hell he wanted. I just didn’t know why.

Seriously. I live in a converted brownstone. There are three — exactly three — units in the building, one on each floor. There are precisely three doorbells in the vestibule, numbered oh-so-creatively: “1”, “2” and “3”.

Furthermore, I live on the first floor. There’s only one door on the first floor, it’s twelve feet from where the guy was standing, and I opened it and walked out approximately four seconds after the echoes of his exaggerated ‘DOOOONG!‘ stopped reverberating around the rafters.

In other words, it was my food. It was clearly my food. There’s no potsticker-poaching hidey hole from which I could have emerged, and there weren’t fourteen hungry urchins glomming at his eggrolls, all claiming to be Spartacus. There was just me and my open door and the shifty-eyed delivery wad squinting at me, chirping:

Whayuname?!

Strike two, Fu Manchu.

I told him my name. He scanned his ticket and said, “Chilly? Is not for Chilly!

I took a deep breath, e-nun-ci-freaking-a-ted “Charlie” through clenched teeth, and he finally handed over the goods, turned and stomped away.

I should have taken this last exchange as “strike three”. But I’m a patient and forgiving man, so I let it go.

Also, I like having fried rice delivered via the Internet. And I hoped maybe they’d fire the guy.

So last night, when the mu shu muse once again called out to me, “Chilly… Chiiiiiiiiilly….,” I hopped on the ‘net and tried the new Chinese joint again. Honestly, I’d forgotten much of what had happened a few days earlier — the food was actually delicious enough to repress most of the bullshit. They can do wonderful things these days with soy-marinated ginger and enough MSG to choke a water buffalo.

An hour passed, and I salivatingly awaited the arrival of the dinner goodie bag. The ill will from the previous encounter was water chestnuts under the bridge — until I heard the condo door open, a pause, and then:

DING-DING-DING-DING-DING-DIN-DIN-DIN-DIN-DIN-DI-DI-DI-DI-DOOOOONG!!

Sonofabitch.

It all came rushing back to me, like a watery-eyed wasabi backdraft. Strike three, soy boy. On the way to the door — risking another barrage of bells waking the souffles upstairs — I grabbed my wallet and stopped by my wife’s closet.

By the time I hit the security door, I was ready. As expected, squinty guy was on the other side, talons tight around my tempura. Without looking up, he demanded:

Whayuname?

Then he looked up.

And there I was, with a pair of my wife’s panty hose over my head like a burglar mask, fishing in a wallet for the driver’s license. I pulled it out and asked for help:

Chu… wait, Cha… does that say ‘Chilly’? I can’t see with this damned thing on. Izzat close enough? Or you wanna come in and look yourself?

He dropped the bag and bolted outside like a shot. I heard him gun the car away like he was revving at Le Mans, and then I went inside and enjoyed my crispy duck and rice.

Also, I explained to the missus why I was wearing her best set of fancy legwear on my head. Or tried to. I think I lost her somewhere around the Spartacus urchins.

A few minutes later, I got a call from the restaurant asking that we never — never ever — darken their online ordering page again. Or come in for takeout. Or accost their delivery drivers with womens’ undergarments.

I assured them I was done, thanked them for the call and silently appreciated that I’d pulled my little stunt on them only after they would have had a chance to spit in my food. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

And now, “Chilly” is no longer welcome to order from the new Chinese place. I suppose I could have my wife try, or wear a different — and perhaps ‘home-invasiony’ — disguise and order again. But their food isn’t that good. And we’d still be stuck dealing with lead-thumbed ‘whayuname?‘ guy.

Personally, I’d rather just order from the pizza joint. It’s quicker, delicious, there’s no drama, and best of all — the pizza man only rings once.

Hey, at least somebody is reading the Post-It.

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