Should we salute?

Now that I am no longer officially a “working” mom (oh my god, I know all moms are working, just calm down), I don’t really know what to write about. So for now, I will tell a funny story.

Once upon a time, before my husband and I knew about nap schedules and potty training, we went to Thailand for vacation. My husband has some long lost uncle or something (I still don’t know who he is) who lives in Bangkok, so once we were settled in our hotel, we called him. The first thing we learned about this “uncle”: he does not speak a word of English. And he wanted to take us around Bangkok for the day. We do not speak any Thai, but were psyched to have a native Bangkokian (that’s actually a word, I looked it up) take us around the city. Turns out the language barrier was no big deal – the “uncle” was the perfect tour guide, and drove us to some cool places we’d never heard of. And it allowed my husband and I to openly snark and make crass comments without worrying about offending anyone. It was really a win-win.

So it’s almost dinner time, and through a series of charades, “uncle” tells us we’re going to a nice restaurant. We pull up at a building with a large red sign with one word in English: “Abalone.” “Uncle” points at the sign and nods and says with enthusiasm, “Abalone!” So clearly, we’re going to eat abalone.

The restaurant has a formal, strangely Western feeling — white tablecloths, lots of silverware, American music playing, and lots of waiters and waitresses dressed in stiff white dress shirts and red tuxedo pants. My husband and I sit down and exchange glances to say: what the hell is abalone, why is 50 Cent playing on the radio, and why do the waiters look like they are in a marching band?

An older male waiter comes over to take our “uncle”‘s order. My husband notices the waiter’s nametag says nothing but “CAPTAIN.” He nudges me under the table to get my attention and we chuckle a little, wondering if his name is actually Captain, or if that’s the semi-cheesy title they came up with for waiters at this seafood restaurant. At least we think it’s a seafood restaurant – is abalone seafood? No idea. Still.

After an awkward silence at our table where “uncle,” husband, and I all stare at each other, Captain brings out our food. On my plate are several small, round slices of…something (meat?) that is pinkish and shiny, and covered in a clear, thick sauce. “Uncle” looks very proud and motions for us to eat. My husband and I are something other than proud. But not wanting to offend this man who has been lovely to us all day, we dive in. And it is not good. I mean, it’s not offensively bad, but it is rubbery and lukewarm and dense and kind of fishy. Wait, I think that’s the definition of offensively bad.

So my husband and I are trying to eat this new food without offending “uncle,” we’re jet lagged, 50 Cent is actually playing on a loop, and we’ve been sucking down tuk-tuk fumes for the past 6 hours. Then Captain’s helper, looking lovely and gracious in her dress shirt and red pants, comes to see if we need any water.

And her nametag says, “ASS CAPTAIN.”

For the rest of the meal, it was all my husband and I could do to keep abalone from flying out of our noses. I think the “uncle” took our stifled laughter as giddiness over our food, and everyone else probably just thought we were rude Americans. Which we totally were.

I can’t wait to travel internationally with the kids and expose them to other cultures. But maybe we should do it before they learn to read.

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