By Wayne Chan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
As a humor writer, 2020 has been a tough year to write about. How do you make jokes about a global pandemic? How do you say anything original about an election that doesn’t antagonize one side or the other?
Fortunately, I have found something humorous (at least for me) to write about. Unfortunately, the humor comes at my own expense. My own ineptness to the rescue!
First, a little back story. 2020 was the year that all our kids were supposed to move out of the house. We were supposed to start the “empty nester” phase of our life. Then, along came Covid-19, and all our best laid plans were put on hold.
As a family of five, trying to stay safe means we’re eating at home a lot. But, in an attempt to stay sane and avoid having permanent “dish-pan hands” from washing dishes day in and day out, we have made an effort to find ways to eat out and still maintain social distancing guidelines. That means we eat only at restaurants that have outdoor seating.
Eating outdoors can be very pleasant…in the summer. In July and August, being seated outside is literally like a breath of fresh air. But now that we’re heading into winter, eating outdoors is a test of endurance.
When you start ordering a bowl of soup, not because it’s a terrific soup but because the steam helps to keep you warm, you start to forget why you’re even there.
But, not to worry, never fear––Weather Man is here!
Maybe that’s overstating things a bit. I didn’t literally change the weather, but I did manage to find a portable butane heater that I could stuff into a backpack and set up for our outdoor dining needs. And, at $50, it was a relatively inexpensive solution to our cold weather dilemma. It also meant that we could now eat outdoors at restaurants that didn’t already have large, portable propane heaters, which meant that we could start eating at Chinese restaurants again. Side note: your mileage may vary, but in our experience, Chinese restaurants have virtually no outdoor seating and therefore, no reason to invest in heaters that would keep those guests warm.
In fact, the Chinese restaurant we went to doesn’t even really have any outdoor seating set up––we had to ask them to bring out a table and two chairs where we could sit next to a row of parking spots in front of the restaurant. But they gladly obliged.
The only thing missing now was the heat. So, I pulled out the portable heater and assembled it, screwed in the small butane tank underneath it, turned the gas up and lit it up with my lighter, and voila––we had heat!
As the flame grew, I stretched out my legs under the table, leaned back, and without saying a word, anyone observing could see that I was pretty proud of myself. I could see the headlines: Man conquers the elements. Independent thinker overcomes barriers during global pandemic. Resourceful man of action keeps family warm while battling frigid conditions! I’m thinking, “Man––my wife must be so impressed with me right now!”
Except…in my moment of self-congratulations, I notice that a bit of flame is now coming out from behind the control knob. It gets bigger and bigger. After another minute, the entire heater sitting on our table is engulfed in flames.
The headlines in my mind immediately change: Idiot man burns up entire restaurant from camping stove stunt. Clueless customer starts a literal hot pot at Chinese restaurant. Covid not bad enough threat for one moronic customer.
I manage to get the heater down on the concrete floor beside the table. The waitress comes out and proceeds to pour three glasses of water on the fire to try and put out the flames. No luck. Finally, the owner of the restaurant comes out of the kitchen with his wok, filled with water, and dumps it on the heater and the fire is put out. Disaster averted.
Despite the fire bomb I initiated, the rest of our dinner came out as planned, and we still managed to have a very nice (if very cold) dinner outside. The food, unfortunately, was great.
I say unfortunately because the food is so good that I still want to go back. Fortunately, I think I can still make it happen because I’ll be wearing a mask. It turns out that the mask not only serves to protect you from the virus, but also makes you hard to recognize.
Wayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.