One of the reasons we like going to this place is a waiter named Sam, who has been there for the twenty years that I’ve lived in this town. We knew him from way back then and the three of us were happy to see each other again after such a long time away. Tonight, sure enough, I waved to Sam, returning his cheery salute. When asked, he assured me that the Shanghai twice-fried noodles were “thin” and not “thick.” We enjoyed our soup (wonton and hot and sour) and then Sam brought out a large plate of crispy pan fried noodles with fresh chicken, broccoli, snow peas and straw mushrooms.
As we ate our meal, we discussed things that were on our minds and our schedules for next week. When it was time to ask for the check, we both wanted to ask Sam what accounted for his positive attitude and why he was always so happy. We knew that he had a grown son who lived in California and had a good job working in computers; and that Sam also had some family, a sister, who lived in town that he saw on occasion. Other than that, he seemed to spend nearly all his time working in the restaurant, folding crab rangoon and wontons during slow times at lunch and serving customers.
His first response to why he was happy was that he “didn’t have any problems.” Then, when we pressed him further, he said that he didn’t think too much about things or about the future. And then, he said, “and don’t pressure yourself too much.” On his days off, his favorite thing to do is to cook for himself. When I asked him which dish he liked best to cook for himself, he immediately said, “steamed fish,” bought live and steamed with ginger, scallions, a little wine–then with some hot oil spooned over the fish. Sounded good to me. In fact, his simple outlook on life sounded very good to me too. Isn’t that what all the Zen priests say anyhow: live in the moment and don’t take yourself so seriously?
So, this bit of wisdom appeared at the dinner table tonight. Together with the huge rainbow that arched over our house yesterday morning, we should be all set. Just stop thinking about things so much ~ for me, though, that’s easier said than done!