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The Five Stages of Moo Goo Gai Pan

Last night, I was at my local pool hall as usual, playing in our Tuesday night 8-ball league. These nights often have a way of continuing well into the late hours, and sometimes bleeding into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Where 'bleeding' is usually -- usually, mind you -- a figure of speech.

This week, I was determined to get out of the billiard barn at a reasonable hour. I'd go in, play a quick match, grab some food, maybe a couple of beers, and get the hell out. At seven pm, I set my jaw, steeled my resolve, and barged into the pool hall on a mission. The goal:

Win my pool match.
Eat greasy bar food.
Barge back out by ten.

For the first half hour, everything went according to plan. I found our table, met my opponent, and started the match. Meanwhile, the teammates and I had a confab with the waitress and decided on a plate of chili nachos and the loaded potato skins.

Greasy bar food: check.

It was around a quarter till eight when the first wrench was thrown into my plan's fragile gears. I had just come back to the nacho table for another chilied-up chip when one of my teammates gathered there said, to no one in particular:

'Hey, we should all go to Chinatown for late food after pool.'

That's what he said. Just like that. With a potato skin in one hand, nacho cheese on his chin, and a perfectly straight face, he suggested that we all make plans to get Chinese food later. That kind of idea comes from only two kinds of people:

A. Food-obsessed people who can't stop thinking about the next meal, even while they're stuffing the current one down their piehole.
2. People who know that they're going to still be awake, and probably hungry, in eight hours.
Now, my cheesy-chinned friend is Italian, so the 'food obsession' angle was certainly plausible. But he wasn't waxing poetic about his grandma's canolis; he was suggesting we schlep all the way down to Chinatown on a late-night lo mein run. And that's not an 'out the door by ten' sort of scenario. You can bet your mother's marinara on that.

"With a potato skin in one hand, nacho cheese on his chin, and a perfectly straight face, he suggested that we all make plans to get Chinese food later."

Thus began my journey through the five stages of grief, as my precious plan of an early night and eight hours of sweet sugary slumber fell into mortal peril. To my credit, I managed to deflect the first mention of Chinatown entirely, figuring it was a whim that would fade as the evening wore on. I simply grabbed a handful of 'chos, shook my head at this pupu pipe dream, and went back to my game. Chinatown? Who is this guy? Pfffft.

At ten after eight, I went back to order a beer -- and walked straight into Denial:

Chinatown Dude: Really guys, we should hit Chinatown later. Keep it in mind.
Me: Man, come on. There's no way we're driving to Chinatown. We just ate, it's way the hell downtown, and besides, I'm getting out of here early tonight. So, maybe some other time. And wipe your chin, there, cheese boy.

I'll be honest -- I was quite proud of myself after that exchange. I've instigated more than my share of after-hours odysseys, but this time I'd brought my guns and I was sticking to them. I was reasonable but firm, tough but fair. I provided evidence to support my position, and no one else in the group seemed to be supporting his crackpot Chinatown notion. Plus, I called him 'cheese boy'. I considered the matter closed.

At twenty after nine, I wrapped up my match -- with a win, check -- and ordered a Guinness to celebrate. There was plenty of time before ten o'clock; one beer and I'd be out of there. Just as I was finishing the pint, I found myself in the next stage, Anger:

Chinatown Dude: Hey, nice game! I'll buy your first egg roll when we get to Chinatown tonight.
Me: Would you quit it with the Chinatown crap? Nobody's going to Chinatown tonight! I'm not going, they're not going, you're not going. Nobody wants to go! Stop talking about Chinatown already! You're killing me, dude. Jesus. Now I need another beer, to settle myself down.

Ten o'clock. Go time. I still had half a beer left, and Chinatown dude was recruiting help. He'd finally gotten one girl on our team to say:

'Eh, whatever. If people go to Chinatown, I guess I'd tag along.'

Flushed with triumph, he tried his luck with me again and I found myself ass-deep in Bargaining:

Chinatown Dude: So. Nina says she'll go to Chinatown if we're going.
Me: Oh, dude. Please. No.
Chinatown Dude: Come on, it'll be great.
Me: Look, next week. How about we go next week?
Chinatown Dude: I'm out of town next week.
Me: The week after?
Chinatown Dude: Off night.
Me: After?
Chinatown Dude: Christmas break.
Me: Look, here's... six, eleven, fourteen dollars. And fifty cents. Fourteen fifty, if we don't go to Chinatown.
Chinatown Dude: Sorry.
Me: I'll pay for the nachos.
Chinatown Dude: No.
Me: Take my watch?
Chinatown Dude: Nah.
Me: Shit. *sigh* Waitress? I'll have another, please.
Chinatown Dude: That's my boy.

Eleven thirty. The last matches have ended, and some of the teams are starting to leave the building. I'm left at our pool table with Chinatown Dude and Girl Who Doesn't Particularly Want to Go, Either. They're playing a game for practice. I'm sitting against the wall with a beer, half-watching SportsCenter and stuck firmly in Depression.

Chinatown Dude: Man, that Chinatown food is gonna taste good.
Me: Get away from me.
Chinatown Dude: Mmmm, just think of those scrumptious egg rolls.
Me: Egg rolls suck. You suck. Go away.
Chinatown Dude: Oooh, I bet they'll have crispy pepper squid, too. Oh, mama.
Me: Poop on your squid. Feh.

As the clock neared one am, the pool hall started shutting down the lights over the tables. We gathered the balls, paid our tab, and I finally moved, kicking and screaming, into Acceptance.

Chinatown Dude: All right! Chinatown, here we come! You guys ready?
Me: Fine. Let's frigging go.
Girl Who Doesn't Particularly Want to Go, Either: Enh, sure. Whatever.

For the record, the crispy squid was delicious. And I resisted the urge to dump hot and sour soup all over Chinatown Dude's head. Barely.

I got home at a quarter after three. Only five hours after I'd planned. So much for my sticky guns. Next time, I'm faking a heart attack. The ambulance ride will cost me, but I bet the paramedics can get me home by midnight. They hardly ever stop for spring rolls on the way to the hospital.

Permalink | Comments (1)

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HA HA! I have been in that situation... and I always END UP just where I DIDNT want to be, yet somehow, those times turn out to be some of the best nights!

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