We were walking back to the car after dinner when I happened to notice the two women vacillating outside of La Taqueria, peering in at the menu, brows furrowed, discussing. “It’s great!”I assured them. “Best tacos in Vancouver.”
They turned, all smiles, clearly delighted someone had taken the time to engage them. “What’s good?” asked the one on the right.
“My favorites are the beef cheeks and the tongue.”
“Lengua!”enthused Righty. “I love lengua!”
Akemi has often accused of being too friendly, critical of my propensity for chatting up complete strangers at restaurants and supermarket checkouts – but, on this night, even she had to admit I’d done gone, helping out this poor, hungry duo in need. Hell, if not for my timely intervention, they could have ended up at that Mongolian grill place! “Damn,” I thought, throwing Akemi the most self-satisfied of smiles, “I’m awesome.”. I imagined a scenario where, after a more involved discussion on food and, possibly, literature, we would exchange emails. They would contact me after their return home and thank me for the terrific suggestion and I would ask them how their trip went. “Wonderful! If only all the locals were as friendly as you!”they’d write back. Over the course of many months, our friendship would grow and, next year or the year after, they’d have occasion to offer up their own list of restaurant recommendations when I’d take the opportunity to visit their home town. Chicago? Boston? Maybe Charleston?
“Are you in town long?”I asked.
“No,”said Lefty. “We’re just here for the convention.”
“What convention?”I asked. And it was then that I noticed their name tags – and titles: “MISSIONARY: CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS”. And before I could wrap things up – or fake an injury – it was ON! They immediately stepped forward, introducing themselves (I’m not sure if they were sisters or referred to themselves as Sister), deftly dividing and conquering. Lefty took Akemi and I while Righty took my sister and Daisy. In hindsight, a brilliant strategy because, whenever I would try to wind down our conversation and step away, my sis was actively engaged preventing any sort of retreat – and vice-versa.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted to converse with anyone regardless of religious or political affiliation – so long as the topics of religion and/or politics never come up. When you strike up a conversation with a missionary, however, you can expect the subject to come up. Are you religious? Are you spiritual? Do you believe in a higher power? Here’s my card!
We eventually disengaged, said our goodbyes and quietly resumed our walk back to the car. Our silent trek was eventually broken by my sister’s: “You didn’t notice the name tags?”
“Your brother talks to everyone,”said Akemi. It sounded more like an exasperated admission than a simple statement of fact.
I sincerely hoped they would enjoy La Taqueria. But I would not, I decided, be visiting them in Charleston.