The cold truth

I went to bed late last night, and I had one of those moments of clarity that only come when I’m semiconscious at 1am. I realized that my lack of enthusiasm for the frozen yogurt trend might be connected to a significant event in my past.

I’ve only been fired once in my life, and it happened when I worked at a frozen yogurt shop.

The place was called Yogido’s, and it was in the food court of my local mall. I worked there when I was a junior in high school.

Yogido’s had a wacky premise. It sold frozen yogurt and…donuts. Hence the “clever” name. It also had a salad bar. I know–huh? We didn’t even make the donuts. The owners would buy a few dozen from the grocery store and bring them in to resell.

The weirdeness didn’t end there. Yogido’s was located next to a Mexican restaurant called Johnny Chilito’s. The two places were owned by the same people so I also worked there. (On a side note, who thinks, frozen yogurt and Mexican food–what a great business opportunity!)

The owners were a Korean couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ryu. When I interviewed for the job, the only questions I remember them asking me were “Are you Christian?” and “When will you go to church?” (They needed someone to work the Sunday morning shift.) I said I was Catholic and could attend mass on Saturdays (which I actually did do).

Mrs. Ryu was not a popular boss. Her last name was pronounced “roo” and some of the workers would call her “Kanga” behind her back. (Hey, remember we were in high school!) I despised working with Mrs. Ryu because I couldn’t understand a single word she said. I know I wrote a post blasting Food Network for dubbing Masaharu Morimoto, but I can understand him. Mrs. Ryu’s accent was so impenetrable, I couldn’t even guess what she was saying. She would tell me to do something, and I would ask “What did she say?” to my friend Kara through gritted teeth. (The irony of this is that Kara is white and could understand Mrs. Ryu while I, an Asian American, could not.)

One night I was working with Mrs. Ryu. She watched me scoop ice for a customer’s drink and said something to me. I knew she was giving me some kind of direction, but I had no idea what it was.

Frustrated, I muttered something like, “I know what I’m doing” in Mrs. Ryu’s general direction. She looked at me sharply, and I understood her then. It was my last night as one of her employees.

Sure enough, when I came to check the work schedule the next week, my name wasn’t on it. That was how the Ryus let you know you were fired.

Now that I’m older, I can see myself through Mrs. Ryu’s eyes. She probably thought I was a disrespectful girl who couldn’t listen. The thing is, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a rule follower, a team player. I respect my elders and authority. I’ve always prided myself on my listening skills and my empathy for others.

But maybe this sense of my self only holds true if the situation is easy–if the person is likeable and seems to like me and seems to be like me.

Who thought frozen yogurt could cause so much introspection?!

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Filed under Essays, Food and race

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