A slightly wrinkled but well-preserved Chinese woman with a whitened face, her hair very straightly parted and tied into a tight knot, greeted the guests and with a barely noticeable nod sent the two teenagers to wordlessly fill the guests’ cups with weak green tea. The newcomers joined all those gathered at the table and sat down on the carmine cushions breathing in the smell of opium. Everyone was observing the four players smoothly rearranging and removing the tiles with mysterious signs hand‑painted on them. The game of mahjong was intense.
At the same time, the guests on the upper floor were having a very different and more disrobed type of pleasure, the entrance to which was guarded by an equally whitened, though more wrinkled Chinese lady sitting between the kitchen and the corridor with her bowl of noodle soup and slurping silently, ignoring the excited voices coming from over the mahjong table. The players, on the other hand, were ignoring the excited voices coming from the upper floor.
Frankie and gambling
A hundred years later, on the couch with a few cigarette holes burned out and cushions that had the sweet aroma of and Amsterdam coffee house, Monika, Banana, Frankie and I were playing Yahtzee over who would be cooking dinner. The gambling element was unnecessary, as a matter of fact, because the moment Frankie enters the game, nobody can lose more acutely. Many have tried, all failed. To this day, his unbeatable record are the three lottery tickets from 2007, in which he bet on 60 numbers. The winning numbers were the remaining 20. For Frankie not to cook alone, Banana and I would take turns to lose the cake battle, and Monika cooked simply for entertainment, like the time when she created Frankenstein’s monster out of pizza dough. During one night, it took over ¾ of the fridge, rammed all the neighbouring jars and started crawling towards our beds.
Our cheers taken straight from a casino were accompanied by rhythmic gongs coming from the Chinese temple nearby mixed with some bits and pieces of the favourite songs of rikshaw drivers pedalling on their three-wheeled butterflies just outside the window. We moved to Chinatown, into Bernie’s house.
Bernie, a colorful character, free spirit, didn’t really lead what you may call a conventional life. If he had the desire to serve French cognac in his bar with no license, he did, after all French cognac is art, art for the people! When he felt like telling his old friend that he had hurt him, Bernie used all of his bartending experience and served the most vibrant Molotov. The prize for this show of assertiveness and openness in talking about feelings was a picture and a personalised note in local newspapers.
However, there was one thing that Bernie always kept a good eye on, and this was the time of his legal stay in Malaysia. Every three months, he went on a well-deserved week’s rest to Thailand or Indonesia, thereby putting a nice and thick layer of wool over the Malay customs officers’ eyes, effectively proving the legitimacy of his visa, for the last seven years – a touristic one.
This time the cunning plan failed. Poor Bernie, when returning to his life as a tourist in Malacca, he got deported. Racists! – he shouted – Bloody bastards! What a system! Such an adamant system. Bernie’s passport received a huge round red seal that uncompromisingly said: banned from Malaysia for 30 days.
Everybody felt very sorry for Bernie, mainly because his absence was explicitly related to the bar being closed, but since resting longer wasn’t really hurting him in any life-threatening way, and we didn’t mind our extended lease of the mahjong club, we didn’t worry too much.
Frankie and the Chinese restaurant
Frankie directed his steps to the restaurant where I had been waitressing when I still had both of my collar bones intact, and as his work standards were already famous all over Malacca, the boss embraced him, not believing his own luck. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? It sometimes happens that every table is occupied and throughout the entire evening you run taking notes and showing the guests every single one of your teeth in the broadest of smiles. There are also such days when the restaurant’s empty and you end up sitting all afternoon reading a book/ writing new blog posts/ playing Angry Birds.
Well, that’s me. That’s not Frankie. Frankie, the busy bee, when he gets bored at work, he looks for more, so in the end he was running between two restaurants and one guest house reception, the worst of which was the reception, for nothing kills you like idleness.
I directed my steps to the nearby hotels in order to obtain all possible wifi passwords, for nothing cures the pain in your heart and your collarbone like the possibility of catching up on TV series using stolen internet.
And so the following weeks were passing: every evening I reported on the life of the Netflix characters, while Frankie was proving to me that the real life happens beyond the couch and the computer. No matter how many different episodes I’d watch, no matter how funny Sheldon had been, his adventures would always top my stories. Frankie won Malacca.
Life has taught us that checking the flexibility of co-workers is a great starting point to live the thrill while working in a Chinese restaurant. You can try to come up with something yourself, but why bother when a hungry customer will soon do it for you. They come in so blatant and ask if the freshly squeezed carrot juice can come with a hint of ginger. Logic suggests – there is ginger in the kitchen, in the bar there are carrots, why not marry those? Frankie, thriving with his youthful enthusiasm, hopped into the kitchen almost like a gazelle, only to hear Soso, the chef, tell him that the ginger belongs to her, if he wants ginger in the bar, then he can go buy some.
Frankie wasn’t born just yesterday, he has been dealing with a woman of temper for a long time, so he backed out pre-emptively, and when another customer came and asked for chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla on his brownie, Frankie went to Aris, the dessert princess, who wittily noticed: but there is a photo with vanilla ice cream on the menu, it’s supposed to be vanilla!
Frankie and resuscitation
He did not give up, our Frankie, oh no! As soon as the next party of clients arrived, with a child, how impertinent! and asked for pasta with grated cheese but no spaghetti sauce for the kid, Frankie decided to trust the masculine decisiveness and asked the boss’s son about the pricing of such a dish. The boss’s son did show his decisiveness better than ever expected, saying: The customer is wrong. Spaghetti comes with the sauce. This was probably the moment when the will to work with people officially died in Frankie, we are resuscitating it as you’re reading this, do keep your fingers crossed.
In the meantime, Bernie decided to revive his life in Malaysia two weeks ahead of schedule and without saying anything to anyone, he came to Malacca by a ferry, because according to the laws of bernic (Bernie + logic), the customs officers at the airport and customs officers at the harbour are two separate institutions. Effect: a seal sitting right beside the first one, saying banned from Malaysia for 90 days.
Aris, not only with her conservative approach to the ice cream flavour on a brownie, trod on one client’s toes painfully enough for him to question her professionalism in a TripAdvisor review, which the boss did not like too much. I do not have a lot of experience in responding to reviews, but the general approach would be that we all prefer the comments to be fluffy and dipped in glitter, because they make the receiver grin even more than usual, and the boss did not smile at all. Well, obviously, plus and minus cancel each other out, so Aris quickly logged into her account and left the restaurant a positive review. The boss, however, remained unsmiling.
Bernie reaped the rewards and was eventually deported to France, where he spent 90 days cursing on Malay racism and the biased system. Frankie headed to one side of the world, I headed in the opposite direction, and the lights went out for a while in the mahjong club. I recently talked to Banana, she confirmed that Bernie returned safely, the French wanted notice did not get him, he reopened the bar, breathed in the Chinatown air, poured his friends some French wine and said that it was actually not half bad that he visited France in the end because his passport had expired anyway.
 Dice game, ideal in travel!