After dinner I offered to help with the dishes, but George graciously refused my request. Thank God, because I didn't really want to do them anyway. Instead, Johnny told me to come with him into the sitting room again.
"Here, I give you Lucky Money, one from me and one from my wife. It for good luck." He handed me two small red envelopes, each containing a dollar bill. The Chinese usually hand them out to their friends and family during Chinese New Year, but sometimes at other times of the year too, such as when a new friend visits your house for the first time. I thought it was really sweet.
"I tired now. You go downstairs."
I thanked Johnny and Mama Gin for the hospitality once again, and went down to talk to my cousin, who was packing for our big road trip which was to start early the next morning.
We arose at the crack of dawn and loaded George's car with provisions to take up to Nova Scotia, where we would be spending Christmas with my cousin's friend Timothy, who had a house on the shore. Michael had warned me the house was quite "rustic," and that we needed to bring a lot of stuff, most notably warm clothing. I was really looking forward to it - it all sounded so charming.
When we were all packed, we got into George's large Pontiac Grand Am and set off.
"Wow, a New Yorker who has a car and drives," I noted.
"Well, he just learned to drive a few months ago. This is his first car. We'll have to keep a close eye on him," Michael replied. It turns out that Michael was quite serious about that part. He henpecked and back-seat drove on George the entire trip, to a level of obnoxiousness that would have gotten him bludgeoned to death if he'd tried it on me. Admirably, George had the patience of a saint with him and rarely gave any response at all.
Somewhere in Connecticut we stopped at a roadside diner for a spot of breakfast. When the check arrived, I took it and said "I will buy breakfast. It looks like you guys have already bought a lot of provisions for us." I was referring to the many bags of groceries and dry goods we had loaded into the car earlier that morning.
George smiled. Little did I know about the Asian propensity for check grabbing; often if you dine with a Chinese, they will tackle you to the ground before letting you pick up the check. Which can be quite annoying at times because you know that a lot of it is all a show. They don't really want to pay all the time; they just want to appear as if they do. And if you don't make some sort of effort to fight them back for the check, they get annoyed eventually. Not that we Midwesterners don't have our own little passive-aggressive etiquette games, but still. We tend not to be big check grabbers.
George didn't fight me for the check, yet I had no idea that simply picking up a breakfast tab would make such a good impression on him. Finally, I had done something right, even if I didn't know it yet.
I am Coaster Punchman and you have just entered my world. I rule it with an iron fist, so if you're looking for First Amendment protection, you will not find it here. I have a now deceased crazy Chinese mother-in-law, and sometimes I wear Crocs around the house. I don't like flip-flops or Mormons. I'm also a cyberstalker by trade -- so I could look up all sorts of random shit about you if I wanted, but I probably won't because I'm pretty lazy.