57. Magic Wine & Tip Snatching

I began waiting on tables in this little Italian restaurant Mondays through Fridays and just like the sign said, from six in the morning until two in the afternoon.  After a little over a week I was an official member of the Union.  I opened my first American, well really first ever, bank account.  I did this at Bank of America.

I was doing fairly well and so I started to send money home for the family.  My leaving Fiji left the full financial load once again upon my brother and it was only right that I should continue helping any way I could.  

After about a couple of weeks working at this Italian place and secured in the Union, I went back over to the Indian restaurant and offered to take them up on their previous offer of employment.  In all honesty it now would better suit me, timing being what it was and all.

Jack and Bill were still most interested and accepted me into their business; same offer as before, no wage only tips and food, until such a time as business steadily picked up.  I know they were confident in my eager attitude and my seemingly endless brain of ideas.  

I did not reveal to them that I was a member of the Union, I honestly didn’t think about it, nor did they ask.

Perfect!  I had a pretty good set-up I thought:  I worked the breakfast and lunch shifts at the Italian joint and went home in the afternoon for a little rest.  I’d freshen up and go to work the dinner shift (3-4 hours in the evening) at the Indian place.  Not bad for a single guy in a new world.

Now to make things happen for the Indian restaurant.  I thought to pay a visit to the Indian Office of Tourism for travel posters and anything else they’d like to spare which spoke of India, turning to the Consulate for extras.  I would display these in the restaurant to lend some ambiance to the scene.  I had some other plans too of course.

As I had walked along the streets of the city, I noticed some men lying about on the sidewalks quite literally, some propped against a building wall, sipping bottles of wine most usually.  And so after a couple of weeks working in the Indian restaurant I found myself with what I thought to be a brilliant idea.

Having seen what I had while walking sometimes, I remember thinking that in my experiences up to now, on the average a person of supposed middle class standards would dare never to touch a cheap bottle of wine.  Maybe they’d even turn their noses up at it; and then perhaps only if someone was watching.

Okay never mind all that.  One day I decided to buy an inexpensive bottle of wine to conduct an experiment.  I took it in to the Indian restaurant that evening.  Amongst other helpful suggestions I lent to the owners of this place such as complimentary lite appetizers, this could prove to be useful.

I put some wine into 3 or 4 glasses and dropped different food coloring into each one.  The basic colors of blue and yellow; red obviously wasn’t called for.  It turns out the blue/yellow combination of green worked the very best, it had a jewel-like quality to it.

Mind you this is basic white wine that anyone can pick up for under a buck and a half.  I showed the colored wine to Jack and Bill and their quick comeback was, “Oh no, we can’t sell that here!”  I suggested they taste it and then comment.  I hadn’t yet told them what I’d done.  

They tasted it and said it was pretty good.  Then I gave them each a taste of the white wine in its original form and they both said it tasted the same.  Well of course it did.  I then suggested we charge 50 cents per glass.

They pondered this over for a couple of days.  Bill and Jack both agreed to start selling the wine in the restaurant, maybe they realised the profit margin?  Jack suggested to serve it up in chilled glasses.  Yes chilled wine glasses, Bill and I agreed.  

And so I introduced it in a teasing form to the patrons as they sat down at their tables.  ‘Would you be interested in trying a little glass of house wine?’  Most everyone replied yes and so along with the little basket of appetizers I brought out, a sample of the wine came too.  

The guests were naturally fascinated by the coloring; they would sip it conservatively.  “Hey that’s pretty good,” most of them would say.  “What is it called?”  I would smile and reply, ‘Jadoo.’   Being asked what that meant, I told them it means magic, which it does.  The two proprietors quickly added it to their menu.

Customers came in more often, drank more, ordered/ate more and my tips grew along with the clientele for this dinner restaurant.  Bill and Jack would buy the wine in a box, we wouldn’t run out.

In fact some of the customers brought in their own empty wine bottle to fill with ‘Jadoo’ so they could enjoy it at home.  The restaurant decidedly charged them $3.50 for that.

Now these customers were telling others about their experience at this little Indian restaurant which of course brought in more people for dinner.  Needless to say what the owners had hoped for their restaurant, was now happening for them.  But they didn’t keep their word.

The effort was never made to pay me a set wage now.  Instead they noticed when I’d cash in smaller bills for bigger ones at the end of the night, I was generally pulling in about $30-40 per shift working so few hours; they began helping themselves to half of my tips!

For a short while and only a short while I kept quiet.

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Friday morning

January 1959

Friday morning at last and yes, go to work.  It would only be for an hour and a half and I absolutely wouldn’t be late for my 10a oath swearing!  This time I had asked the boss, Mr. W for the rest of the morning off.  

He must’ve figured I had some courthouse stuff to tend to.  “Go on then Nand.” he said with a casual smile.  Mr W was a genuine soul, a very good man.

I headed out for my 10 minute walk to the consulate’s office.  After Theresa acknowledged my arrival with a smile, I sat and waited for a few minutes.  She then called me to the back office for my appointment.  

In my presence the gentleman briefly looked over everything one more time and said to me, “Mr. Masala.  I see you’ve paid your fee and we’ve got your valid passport.  Along with all the proper forms and required documents, everything is in order and you’re well on your way.”  My excitement was mounting and it was time to take my oath.  

Yes and while this whole thing took place ever so long ago, I can tell you it consisted of this basic idea:  to uphold the laws of the United States of America, strive to be a model resident, and not take advantage of the system but earn the privileges.  One day I’d be able to apply for citizenship through the process of Naturalization, etc …

This gentleman then signed a couple of papers, put everything into an envelope and sealed it officially.  He reminded me to not open it.  “It must only be opened by the immigration officials in Honolulu at which time they will issue you the proper identification, granting you legal access to reside and work in America.”  

My face was a tale of delight to say the least.  I stole a quick glance Theresa’s way with a satisfied grin.  She was smiling.

The officer continued, “God bless you Mr. Masala and all the very best to you.  United States is a big country,” he spoke so sincerely.  “Good luck and be sure to make the best of what America has to offer you.”  He shook my hand firmly and honestly.  I was moved by this experience I tell you.  

I came out of the office with Theresa and into the reception area.  I was on a cloud for sure! and it was time for me to be on my way.  I wanted to say goodbye to her with a hug, I was so happy you know.

Instead, I thanked her warmly for her wonderful help.  “Good luck with all you set out to do!  I have faith in you Mr. Masala.  There’s a part of my that still cannot believe the speed with which you did this!”  Her smile was infectious.

“I’ve got to tell you, after the determination you’ve demonstrated with all of this, I know you can make it big!”  And there was my verbal hug.

C - Salinas mountains' Honeysuckle -signed (12 x 18)

What a morning!  I returned to work.  I felt all eyes on me, at least on the big envelope under my arm.

Jules knew what it was and I’m certain she quickly read the look upon my face and came right up to me with a great big hug.  “Nand I cannot tell you how happy I am for you!”  

Back in the workshop my uncle asked me what was in the envelope and I said, ‘It’s my visa to take to the United States!’

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Thursday

January 1959

Thursday morning.  I got dressed with a little more spring in my step, enjoyed my breakfast and made sure to grab that bag with those documents before heading out the door.

I looked one more time into the bag, making sure I had also put the $10 American cash (which I had saved from previous American encounters) and my British passport.  I did.

I went directly to my job.  I worked for an hour and a half and then, it was tea time!  Taking advantage of this leisurely break I excused myself and went straight to the U.S. Consulate’s office.  

Theresa was there at her desk and she greeted me with an adorable smile,  “Nice to see you again.”  I put my bag upon the counter, removing all the papers and such, placing them there.

She just looked at me.  She didn’t touch them.  I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me, still Theresa is not touching them.  

“You know what?”  she asked.  ‘What?’ I replied.  I waited for her to say something else.  I am smiling and I don’t know why.  The suspense was a bubble just waiting to burst.

She finally spoke, “I am dreaming. I don’t believe it.”  Theresa tapped the papers.

‘Did I do something wrong?’  I asked her.  “There’s no way possible!”  she said.  

“I’ve never witnessed anything like this since I’ve worked with the Consulate’s office.”  Now she’s beginning to flip through the papers.  Seems to have met her approval.   

“You know Mr Masala, I have worked with this office, first in Noumea and now Suva, and I have never had a case like this where the paperwork was completed so rapidly.  Usually it’s 3-4 weeks and sometimes more!”  

Making a neat pile of it all, she took from me my passport, the American cash for the processing fee and all the paperwork back into the other office; the Office of the Consulate General.

About 10 minutes later she returned.  “Okay that’s it!  You have an appointment tomorrow morning at 10am sharp to take your oath!”  Theresa seemed excited for me, well it certainly sounded like that.  “Then you can collect your visa.”

Theresa sent me on my way with, “Such determination and great follow through Mr. Masala.  Good day!”

I could feel it, I was ready to fly!

Now I returned to work and stayed put for the rest of my shift.  But not before giving Jules another great big hug.  “Nand, come back soon and take me with you!” she told me as she hugged me back.

Passing on the celebratory cold Guinness temptation, I needed to get home right away this evening.  I was even more determined to relish in my family time.  

No developments or questions.  It was to be like any other evening at home.  I wasn’t expecting to see Noori until the weekend as that has been the normal.

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