It was a dark and stormy night. And by stormy, I mean the steady drizzle that’s characteristic of Northwest rain. The perfect kind of night for a wild goose chase. The website said the Richmond Night Market was open for business May through October. This particular weekend in October was supposed to be the final weekend. We were hoping the market would remind us of Thailand, where we ate mango and sticky rice and combed the makeshift booths for unique Asian handmade crafts like square lanterns and flowing tunic tops.
We were driving in the suburbs of Vancouver, B.C., without any of our trusty navigation tools. To get to that side of town, we chose a coffee shop on Yelp that looked promising–in a moment of wifi. It was called “Leisure Tea and Coffee” and had gotten good reviews. Looking back, this should have been a clue.
The map, the one we’d downloaded to a phone the last time we had wifi, got us there without any problem. When we arrived to the area, we noticed that all of the signs were in Mandarin. And many of them, only in Mandarin. Briefly, we wondered if we’d gotten the directions wrong, but we saw the sign for Leisure Tea and Coffee written in English, underneath the Mandarin characters we couldn’t read. We knew we weren’t far from Vancouver’s Chinatown, but we were the only Caucasian people within a several-block radius.
The rain plus the anxiety of finding our way to an unknown area had the effect it always does. I had to pee. We had found the coffee shop, but our first attempt to park behind the building failed. So, when Harry turned around to look for parking in the area next to the building, I took my chance to get out while he parked, expecting him to arrive at the coffee shop by the time I left the bathroom.
He wasn’t there when I got out of the bathroom, where the sign had read, “Do not put anything in the weak toilet.” He wasn’t there 10 minutes later. Or even 20 minutes later. Anxiety set in. I started to imagine him in an accident, trying to resolve it in another country, without any way to get in touch with me.
If I had been thinking clearly, it would have been funny to remember that time in India when I was lost in an auto rickshaw and the driver turned to me and asked, “Which way, Madam?”
When I walked out of the bathroom, the host was waiting for me. I could tell he was anxious for me to sit down and order something. So I sat down and stared at the menu while I waited for Harry. The one that said Cash Only on the front cover. I knew we didn’t have any Canadian dollars. Only American. Maybe there was an ATM nearby? I started to get up. Then I sat down.
I put my rain jacket back on. I looked up from the menu to stare through the window into the darkness. Every time a car’s lights would drive by, I would look for Harry at the door. I started to get up. Then I sat down. How would I find him?
The menu’s delicacies included a section for crepes, which were described as waffles and crispy chicken. And, grass jelly.
Forty-five minutes passed. A few more Chinese people walked in. No one seemed to notice me. No one asked for my order. I got up for real this time. I explained to the host that I was concerned about my husband. That he’d been trying to park and I wasn’t sure why it was taking him so long.
The host said, “Actually, our parking is behind the building.”
I said, “Yes. We tried that, but it was full.”
He said, somewhat apologetic, “It’s always that way, actually. Since this is the dining district.”
He didn’t stand in my way, but before I could get to the door, Harry appeared. His body was tense, but I could tell he was ok. I’m sure I sighed.
We’ve been learning to articulate our emotions more quickly. “I’m angry” were his first words.
I said, “Are you ok?”
He said, “I’m angry, but I’m ok. I’ve been looking for a parking place all this time.” We both breathed a sigh of relief that we were no longer divided by cell phones that were in airplane mode. He said he was 40% anxious because we couldn’t communicate and 60% angry that he’d just spent 45 minutes driving around an area of about three blocks looking for a parking place.
When he had tried to park on the side of the coffee shop, a polite Canadian-Chinese man walked out to the car and explained to him that he couldn’t park there. Harry called him Burger King Betty, in honor of the woman who guarded the Burger King parking lot near Vanderbilt from SATCo’s patrons. The parking guard said he could tell Harry wasn’t from here, but that he would have to park somewhere else.
When I told Harry that we couldn’t stay at the coffee shop because it was Cash Only, his shoulders sank. The way they do when he’s defeated and has no idea how to move forward.
Then I had an idea. I had seen a sign at the Granville Island Market that said, “American or Canadian dollars OK. We’re not picky.” I confirmed with three different people in the restaurant that they would accept American dollars since we didn’t have Canadian ones.
So we stayed. Harry ordered a Leisure Blend coffee and I ordered a peach nectar tea. They were both excellent. They were both served in fragile, painted teacups.
No one ever approached us. Or looked us in the eye. It seemed like they weren’t even aware of us. But as soon as I looked up or finished my tea, they were at our table immediately. Ready to serve.
The Richmond Night Market, we never found. We finally asked some people walking nearby, who said they thought it was closed for the season. The pitch blackness seemed to suggest it as well.