Since I am attributing wisdom to others – it has also been said, that a true test of a man's character is how he treats restaurant wait staff, and how he treats his mother. Once I stopped playing with Cleve's NFL paraphernalia and took off the Green Bay Packer's cheesehead hat, the little bastard wasn't as embarrassed to have me along supervising their fundraising efforts. And, I only let an audible "asshole" slip out once. Or maybe twice.
If you've never worked in the service industry, then it's safe to say, you likely under-tip and have, on occasion, called a waiter, simply "Waiter". If you've never had to raise thousands of dollars for minor sports because MLA's are buying $800 dollar coffee makers and $8000 generators, then you've also likely said "no" or walked past, eyes down, when approached by a child in a jersey, politely begging for money to keep him off crack and out of juvey.
Service-with-a-smile is an art, in a world littered with rude, impatient people not unlike myself. While there's nothing worse than a chit chatty bank teller, it is refreshing when someone making minimum wage manages to crack a smile and make eye contact when handing you the $6 latte they likely horked in out back. Or, similarly, when a busy shopper takes a moment to ask the boys about their season and hand over a $5 bill.
This week, with Chinese New Year fast approaching, I set out on a mission to avoid the mid-afternoon cookie cravings and experience something new: Bubble Tea. I have been driving by Bubble Tea shops with my head down, feigning disinterest, and completely ignorant of what bubble tea was – so, throwing caution to the wind – I decided to support a local business by finding out.
My arrival at the Bubble Tea Shop on Inglis Street appeared to startle the young man working behind the bar. I told him I was a Bubble Tea virgin and needed guidance, whereupon he claimed to have the best Bubble Tea in Halifax – made with "real sweet potatoes". He also said his name was George, and when I commented that George was a popular Chinese name, he said he was from Toronto. That explains it, but I was still a little confused about the sweet potatoes. I told him all I really knew was I wanted hot tea, because it was 30º below. George handed me a menu, which, even with my glasses was confusing and half Chinese, so I handed it back and asked for his most popular, hot Bubble Tea.
"Taro", he exclaimed, and went about his business mixing purple powder with white powder – at one point stepping behind a curtained doorway, likely to hork in my Bubble Tea or check on his little sister doing god knows what back there – only to emerge with a large cup of ice cubes.
So, why ice cubes in hot tea? I asked, naively.
That's when George snapped. He slammed the cup and contents into the sink and said "You ask for most popular, I make!". To which I calmly said, "I believe I asked for most popular HOT tea, Pokemon, and don't fuck with me because I am premenstrual, perimenopausal, and beginning to overheat in this hideous rink coat."
George once again set about his task, and I avoided the Chinese elephant in the room by making small talk, like, "Gee, George, seems Bubble Tea is quite popular these days... has it been around a while?". George then said, and I can't make shit like this up, "Have you ever heard of Toronto, or San Francisco, or New York?!"
"Heard of." This guy was beginning to piss me off.
Stooping to his level, I mentioned I had actually heard of and lived in Toronto, San Francisco, and New York but no, I had never experienced Bubble Tea.
"Bubble Tea everywhere in San Francisco! You no see?"
It was at that precise moment, when I noticed the bowl. The last time I saw a stainless steel bowl that large it was full of my warm afterbirth. The contents of George's bowl, didn't look much better, so when he turned and scooped up a ladle full, I couldn't help but risk my life by asking, "George, um, what was that you just scooped into my tea?"
"Sweet potato!", he cried.
George then slammed on a lid and shoved an enormous liposuction hose in my beverage. My uninsulated cup of Bubble Tea was very hot, and very purple, and scared the shit out of me. The bottom two inches had, what appeared to be fish eggs, snot balls, or puppy eyeballs, pressed against the plastic. There was no way I was wrapping my lips around the neon straw and sucking those fucking things up, so I removed the lid and took a cautious sip.
While not totally offensive, my Bubble Tea tasted like hot, liquid, Thrills gum.
If you've never experienced Thrills gum, with "... it still tastes like soap!" written right on the packaging – Sweet Jane's sells it. The purple-coated chewing gum does taste a bit like soap – but I like it. It's disturbing – like Family Guy – but I like it.
My Bubble Tea was also disturbing – but I liked it. I took a $5 dollar bill out of my wallet and asked George how much I owed him. He said, "I see you don't have more change, so $5 dollars will be fine."
That's when I snapped. "Listen, 章子怡章子, how much do I owe you, if for nothing else, the pleasure of your company?
"$5.50!", he smiled and handed me a tip jar.
I tossed in my fifty cents and headed to the car. I had mittens on, avoiding a McDonald's super-sized lawsuit from scalded hands. And, I wasn't quite sure what had just gone down back there in the Bubble Tea Shop but – a risk taker – I sucked up a puppy's eyeball to complete the experience.
Let's just say, I haven't had anything exit my body that fast since I blew a maraschino cherry out my nose following a Rusty Nail overdose in 1982.
For five dollars (and 50 cents) you can get a cold shoulder and a hot cup of Thrills gum. Or, you can lick a stamp and purchase a raffle ticket in support of the Halifax Hawks Bantam AAA hockey team.
Either way, it's character revealing.
To experience fully all that is Bubble Tea, head to San Francisco or, the Bubble Tea Shop at 5385 Inglis Street (At Victoria Road) in South End Halifax.
To purchase a raffle ticket, mail cash or cheque to Jack Flinn, 1589 Preston Street, Halifax B3H3T9. $5 for one, or 3 tickets for $10. You could win a Maritime Travel gift card, an HP Pavillion laptop from Datarite, a Lawton's gift basket, or some guy's smelly NHL jersey. Make cheques payable to Halifax Hawks Bantam AAA. In return, Jack will send you a lovely thank you note, a ticket stub, and a receipt if requested. The draw is March 8th.