Ken’s Rant | Today’s Topic: Ramen
…so I went to this new ramen place a couple of months ago. It was a cold day, and I could see my breath turning white as I walked down the street. When I got to the noodle shop, there was already a bunch of people lined up to try their White Chicken Broth Ramen, which is something that we never had in my neighborhood. I’ve never had a White Chicken Broth Ramen before, so I was pretty excited to try it.
So, I stood at the end of the line in the freezing cold, and I waited for what seemed like an eternity. And then a young waitress came out of the noodle shop and YELLED at us. She wanted us to stand closer to the building and make way for people. Which was totally understandable, as we were basically blocking the sidewalk with a huge line, although I wanna point out that I didn’t see any cars coming, so people could have easily walked down the street safely. But then, I saw the young waitress starting to collect something. Everybody was handing their tickets to the girl, and I’m thinking, “Oh, man!” I waited in line forever in the freaking cold, and it was all for nothing.
This ramen place didn’t have waiters and waitresses. You know, real people that provide real service like taking orders. Instead, they had the meal ticket system, which I hate, and I hate it with a passion. And why do I hate the meal ticket system so much? Number 1. Oftentimes, you can’t even look at the menu because there is none. I mean, sometimes there are pictures, of the meal that you’re trying to get, on the buttons of the ticket vending machine, but that’s not enough for me, and that leads to my reason number 2. You can’t even ask questions about the menu because the servers, or should I say busgirls, are all busy. And number 3. You don’t have time to think what you wanna get, because of the people waiting behind you and you feel like you’re being rushed.
But I get it, you know. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall kind of place, so you have to maximize your profits with what you have. And I can’t imagine how hard it is to run a restaurant especially in this day and age. But that being said, I’m always amazed by my Japanese friends’ reaction whenever I bring up the topic of the meal ticket system.
A lot of my Japanese friends don’t have a problem with the meal ticket system. They even think it’s efficient, which I can’t believe because if you think about, the meal ticket system is efficient for the guy who’s actually running the place but not for me, it isn’t.
Japanese people love efficiency. And the thing I noticed is that they oftentimes use the word ‘efficient’ in relation to the collective, not in relation to the individual. Take Golden Week for example. This whole concentration of holidays is efficient for businesses, but not for the people who are actually on holiday, right?
During Golden Week, it gets so crowded everywhere you can’t even walk without bumping into someone. There is nothing golden about Golden Week. Instead of calling it Golden Week, we should start calling it, Super Spreader Week. Or Shinjiro Koizumi, who is the Minister of the Environment, who is also the son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, and who is also the husband of TV personality Christel Takigawa, and who’s also on a one-man war against plastic, might prefer to call it Sexy Week. ‘Cause he’s one privileged guy who loves to sex it up!
Anyway, I went into the noodle shop, waited in another line to buy the meal ticket from a vending machine, left the noodle shop, and then I went back to the end of the line. Basically, I had to start all over again from the beginning and had to go through another couple of rounds of the female server’s yelling.
Then, I saw this bald guy walking across the street. He gets closer and closer. And then he stops and stands behind me. It was obvious that he was here for the ramen, but I was pretty sure that he didn’t have the meal ticket. And you know, I’m a nice guy, so I really wanted to tell him that he had to go inside and buy a ticket from a vending machine. However, what discouraged me from doing so was — I’m sorry — his looks. Not only did he have the looks of a yakuza, but he also looked angry from the get-go. And I’m not even kidding because there’s a significant yakuza population in my neighborhood.
So, I patiently waited for the line to move forward, and tried not to think about the man’s inevitable realization. And then I saw the female server coming out of the building. She looked at the waiting list and called out their names, and as the line in front of me got shorter and shorter, the female server asked me for my ticket. And when I handed it to her with joy and a little bit of guilt, I saw the bald yakuza-looking guy rushing into the noodle shop furiously, as if he was ready to rip someone’s head off.
When my name was finally called after God knows how long, I was ushered to the counter. As soon as I sat down, they served me the White Chicken Broth Ramen that I ordered with the ticket. But what I saw next made my blood boil hotter than the ramen I was so ready to scarf down. What did I see? There were all these detailed instructions written on the counter. Do this. Do that. Eat it this way. They were even telling me to snap a photo of the ramen and post it on social media with some stupid hashtag. And I’m thinking, what are you gonna ask me to do next? Are you gonna tell me not to leave any yucky brown stains on your squeaky clean toilet bowl? All I wanted to do was to sit down, relax and enjoy a nice bowl of ramen on my day-off. And I waited for so long in the freaking cold and you gonna still assault me with all these barrage of instructions? I was so pissed that I lost my appetite.