Falafel, Flies, & Business Systems my gringo amigo charlie invited me to go to the kosher restaurant for lunch. It’s about two blocks from from my apartment in Polanco, the Manhattan of Mexico City. The restaurant isn’t much to look at. Plastic covers the chair seats to keep them clean, but the wrappings are so worn, torn, and dirty that their purpose has long since expired. If you look up, you see three large plastic bags of water hanging from the ceiling. I ask Charlie, ‘Why do they hang those bags of water up there?’ He doesn’t know, but Sammy, an old time patron, comes over to help us. He says, ‘The bags of water keep the flies away, because they can’t stand flying under water.’ I am not an expert on flies or the repellant properties of bags of water. But based on my observations, the bags don’t work. The waiter gives each of us a menu: a half-letter sheet smeared with sticky-finger residue. They list a dozen different meals to choose from. Charlie and I, with generous advice from Sammy, order falafel, hummus, and a number of other tasty chicken, turkey, and beef dishes. They do business on the honor system, so our waiter does not write down what we order and we do not receive a check at the end of the meal. When we are done, Sammy escorts me over to the cashier and he tells the guy what we ate for lunch. As Sammy identifies each dish, the cashier writes down the cost on a scrap of paper. He then adds up all of the items by hand. At the end, he double-checks his artithmetic with a calculator, like the ones Radio Shack sold in 1979. He finds a 100 peso mistake, scratches through the error, and hands me the corrected bill for payment. I hand him my Amercian Express card, but they don’t take credit cards. So I pay cash for the meal and two tips: one for the waiter and one for the cook. Though he was most helpful, I do not tip Sammy.
Published on Mar 19, 2015
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