On Friday afternoons I’m usually downtown, often sitting in Tully’s Coffee before dinner. Summer Fridays in downtown Pleasanton tend to be crowded, with the free concert in Wayside Park and the outdoor dining scene on Main Street. I had a hankering for some authentic Chinese food, in specific, a restaurant in Milpitas Square called Nutrition House. It’s one of my favorites, and I’d passed it by the day before on the way home from a meeting in San Jose, but was willing to head all the way back down there and pick up some some takeout.
I packed up and got in the car, which was parked in the sun at the corner of Main and Angela St., and it was no place to try to read the takeout menu. So I drove a couple of blocks west of Main and turned onto a side street, and parked in the shade in a residential neighborhood, and began to peruse the menu. (It’s truly impressive, about 10 pages long.) I had come to a tentative conclusion about what to order after a few minutes, and had my phone out, when out of nowhere came a woman in her 40’s, who knocked at my car window. I rolled it down a little, and as soon as I did, she asked, “Do you have friends or family in this block?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’d like to know who you are and what you’re doing here.”
“I’m sorry… am I blocking your driveway?” (Well, I thought I was legally parked…)
“I’m with the Neighborhood Watch, and we like to keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhood.”
I confess was too flabbergasted to engage in any repartée, so I explained that I was ordering takeout Chinese food.
“And you decided to do that here because…?” The tone of her voice was exactly that of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character.
“…because trying to drive and order food at the same time might be a little difficult.”
She seemed to soften a little bit, and said, “Well, I’m glad you don’t drive and talk on your cell phone at the same time.”
“Actually, I do drive and talk on the cell phone all the time,” I replied, turning my head to reveal a Jawbone Bluetooth headset, “but I don’t drive, talk on the cell phone, and try to read a Chinese takeout menu at the same time. That would be a bit much.”
So, we exchanged a few pleasantries, I introduced myself, and she stood there looking dubious for a moment, and then walked off. I can only imagine what nefarious mischief she suspected me of (casing houses to burgle? looking for children to abduct?) and briefly considered a facetious reply along those lines, but thought better of it, not really wanting to have to answer questions from a sheepish and embarrassed police officer.
The incident left me with an odd feeling. While I generally support neighborhood anti-crime activities — including Neighborhood Watch — being questioned by the block’s Mrs. Nosyparker as to my identity and business while legally parked on a public street was somewhat intrusive and a bit creepy. I asked her if there had been any specific incidents that led to her suspicions of strangers, and she demurred, saying that she kept a watch on everyone. Indeed.
In any case, the second odd (though not unexpected) encounter was when I called Nutrition House a few minutes later. I had the menu, which is organized into sections with letters, and was going to try to order S5, S7, D15, and B37 (I think; the first two are northern dim sum small plates), but unfortunately, no one who answered spoke enough English to take the order. I apologized (when I’m there, pointing and using the few words of Chinese I know works fine) and said I’d come there another time. It’s a very Chinese Chinese place; the English name of the restaurant is never used (and isn’t even on the sign, I don’t think); it’s really called Wu bing er yu, “Five loaves, two fishes” and its web site is www.5bing2yu.com.
So I decided to get sushi instead. Senro is my favorite, but it’s difficult on Fridays unless I’m on foot or at Tully’s; having given up my downtown parking space, I wasn’t going to get another, and their lot is almost always full. So I headed up to the other sushi place I like, Tomo, and got a nice takeout plate of rolls and sashimi.
Another freaky Friday in Pleasanton, I guess.