Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Please don’t step on the pigeons

Actually I don’t think it’s possible to step on a pigeon. They may not be the smartest bird around but they’re really fast and awfully good at getting out of harm’s way.

The pigeons I’m talking about were our informal dining companions at a Miraflores restaurant in Lima. Miraflores is an upscale section of Lima, with modern skyscraper offices and apartments; the Larcomar Mall overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and 5 star hotels and restaurants. There are sections of Miraflores that are not so fashionable…like the restaurant we and the pigeons were eating lunch in. I’m not talking about a quaint sidewalk café. These pigeons were inside the building, happily availing themselves of the crumbs dropped by careless diners while avoiding the comings and goings of waiters and customers. Sitting at a table aware that there were pigeons underneath I tried not to move my feet, keeping them firmly planted on the floor but soon learned from watching other customers that there was no need to be concerned.

During our meal my attention was drawn from the pigeons to an animated discussion at the cash register between a waiter and a dissatisfied customer; both of them older men. The exchange went something like this:

Customer – “The piece of fish you gave me was small. I will pay only 8 soles ($2.34)”

Waiter – “You will pay 11 soles ($3.23) which is the price on the menu, not what you want to pay!”

Customer – “I would pay 11 soles for a real meal, not what you gave me!”  

Waiter – “Where can you get fish for only 11 soles?!”

Customer – “Not here!…the piece you gave me was smaller than this crumpled up napkin!”

Waiter – “Senor you exaggerate!”

Customer – “Argh!!” This utterance is usually accompanied by a gesture of disgust which the customer performed flawlessly. The hand, starting at about waste high is rapidly raised with a half circular motion to slightly over head height, with the back of the hand being displayed to the object of disgust.

Waiter - “Argh!!” The waiter did a commendable job with the same gesture.

Customer - “Argh!!” The customer threw 11 soles on the counter and while turning to leave executed the dismissive gesture, which is pretty much the opposite of the disgust gesture. Starting above the head, the hand is rapidly lowered with a half circular motion to waist height, with the palm facing the object being dismissed.

Waiter – (shouting at the rapidly disappearing customer) “Senor please!...a little respect!!”

Pigeons and customers ignored the whole thing. I enjoy people watching, always trying to understand why we act as we do and found it fascinating.

During our five days in Lima we also ate at some non-pigeon restaurants. Rigoletto’s in Miraflores is one of them. It is ranked #17 of some 1400 restaurants rated by Trip Advisor and lives up to its billing (interestingly it is 3 blocks from the pigeon restaurant). Ambience, service and food were excellent. What made it even better was the pleasant conversation we had with M and Z, whom we met for the first time. (Let me explain why I am using initials instead of names. The internet is a great communication tool but it also has become a playground for psychopaths who get their jollies by harassing people. I don’t want my friends to have to put up with that crap.)  

It was a near perfect lunch, and I say near perfect only because of one nit-picky point. The waiter put my napkin on my lap. Don’t put my napkin on my lap. If I want my napkin on my lap I’ll put it there. If you put my napkin on my lap you’re telling me that I look like some sort of bozo who’s going to spill stuff on himself. I don’t spill stuff on myself. I may drop a fork, or spray my companions with food because I tend to talk while chewing but I don’t spill stuff.  I may also knock over a glass but to cover up I pretend I did it deliberately to show my extreme displeasure with something. When the waiter comes to clean up I say, “Garcon…look at the color of those peas! They’re too green and spoil the appearance of the salad!” or, “Don’t ever put beets in my salad! People who like beets probably like sucking blood in Transylvania!” I don’t know if my act fools anyone but I feel that it may somewhat deflect the focus from my ineptitude.

One day we ate at the Salòn China restaurant in China Town. It is a very large, pleasant appearing restaurant with a dozen white-shirted waiters at your elbow with anything you need. The unlimited refills of chicha morada were welcome on this hot afternoon. For lunch we chose the buffet. Both of us had two full plates and commented on the quality of taste and appearance of every offering. The next day Maribel had an extreme headache with nausea. I had diarrhea. Not saying our problems were due to the restaurant; not saying they weren’t. Whatever the cause, that day was un dia perdido.

We did more than just eat at restaurants. For example, we almost saw the exhibits in the national museum in San Borja. You know that sinking feeling you get when you’re approaching a major attraction like a theme park or museum, and you don’t see any people going in or coming out?  I knew there was no point to walking up the stairs to the main entrance but we did it anyway. The security guard told us there were no lights and wouldn’t be for the next two days. As an alternative activity we phoned some friends and asked if they’d like to join us for lunch at the Plaza San Miguel where we hadn’t been in a couple of years, but were told that the mall is undergoing major renovations and is “…not a good place to be right now.” We salvaged the day by going to some friend’s apartment in the afternoon and watched the Packers defeat the Redskins. After the game we looked at photos of their recent trip to England.

Other friends we visited were D and G. D is a mining engineer and G is a clinical psychologist. We’ve known them for several years and always enjoy being with them. They’re the kind of people you can discuss politics, religion and family secrets with without having to worry about offending, being offended or judged.

With the exception of the lost day it was a nice visit. Hopefully next time around the national museum will have lights and we can see what we missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment