Writing yesterday about how Facebook is recommending my ex-husband as a friend got me to thinking about some of the less than desirable men that have chased after me over the years. Growing up I was nice; I am still nice, but I’m not as nice and sweet as when I was a teenager.
I think the biggest and most notable weirdo of all was Jack the Chinese waiter. I was 15, and it was toward the end of 10th grade. I am from a very small rural town in Georgia, and I worked weekends at a small ice cream shop with a couple of girlfriends from school. One day a Chinese buffet opened—this was a huge happening because we had never had a Chinese restaurant in the area before. Hell, our entire county didn’t even have a movie theater, shopping mall, or Wal-Mart. My mom, cousin, brother, and I went out to eat there on a Friday night. Our waiter, whose name tag said “Jack,” was very nice and kept coming by to fill our water glasses and crack jokes. He was Chinese and said that the family who opened the restaurant had informally adopted him, and he moved with them to work in their restaurant as a debt of gratitude. He was very sweet, and he said he was 21. He asked me to come back for lunch the next day before work since the restaurant was around the corner from the ice cream shop. I loved Chinese food so I agreed. He took his lunch break and ate with me, and we talked about random crap. I didn’t feel any chemistry for him whatsoever. I thanked him for lunch and started to leave, but he insisted on walking me to the ice cream shop. Okay…..whatever. He came back later that afternoon on another break to see me and buy an ice cream. Okaaaaay….I was starting to feel a bit weird. He came back Sunday afternoon to ask me out on a date. I flat out told him no, and my parents didn’t let me date yet because I was only 15. He was polite about it and left. I was relieved.
The next day after school my phone rang:
“Hello, Snort? Dis Jack. How you?” What. In. The. Fuck?!?
“Um, I’m fine. How did you get my number?”
“I go to ice keem shop, and Mr. Je-yee, he give me you numbuh.” Goddammit. My boss, Jerry, actually gave this guy my phone number. I was raised to be polite at all costs (the curse of every Southern woman) so I thought I’d go with a few minutes of polite chit-chat then feign having something to do.
“Oh….okay. What’s up?”
“I hope you no mind, but I got peasant for you. I tink you pitty and sweet, Snort.” Oh, crap.
“You got me a present? Jack, that’s sweet, but I hardly know you.”
“Can I come bing peasant now?” Oh sweet Jesus. Wait! Dad’s home and very imposing looking. Ok.
“Alright. My address is xxxxxxxxxxxxx.”
He showed up twenty minutes later with a porcelain figurine from a boutique. It was cute. I thanked him. He asked me on a date; I told him no. He smiled and left.
The next weekend at work he came to see me on every fucking break he took. He ate his weight in fudge and ice cream. I was feeling uncomfortable around him but didn’t want to hurt his feelings (goddamn Southern manners!). I engaged in polite chit chat and tried not to say or do anything that would make it seem like I was interested him. I was happy to go home. My boss asked me if I’d like some overtime the following weekend; I flat out told him no.
Jack called me out of the blue the following week. He said he was moving, and he asked if he could come by to say goodbye and give me another present. I told him no. He begged and begged, and I told him that I would meet him in front of the movie rental store in 10 minutes. I had my mom drive me and wait in the car. Jack was driving a brand new Mustang. He offered to take me for a ride, but I said no. He gave me a big, heavy box that he obviously wrapped himself. He told me he had decided to move to Florida and wanted to say goodbye. He asked if I would go with him. At once I was choking back feelings of fear, nausea, and shock; I flat out told him no, and I turned around and got in the car. He shouted that he would call me soon. Mom slammed her foot on the accelerator and we left. I felt relieved that I didn’t have to see him anymore.
We got home, and Mom and I opened the box. It was filled with brand new clothes. They still had the tags on them; they were from a local store that sold women’s clothing. The box held a pair of jeans, a few pair of shorts, and three or four shirts. How odd. I didn’t want them. I didn’t even want to touch them.
In 1994 we didn’t have caller ID so answering the phone was a crap shoot: you had no idea who was on the line. I answered the phone the next night, and it was Jack. He told me he was headed to Daytona Beach, and he asked me again to come with him. He said he had plenty of money and would put me up in an apartment and pay to send me to school. I hung up on him. I felt gross.
Two or three days later my mom came to school and picked me up early, and we drove to the Sheriff’s office. In the office I recognized R, the mother of a guy I went to school with; R and her family owned and operated a local car dealership. Apparently Jack’s name wasn’t Jack. He wasn’t 21; he was in his early 30s. The family he lived with wasn’t his family; he was someone they had known for only a few weeks. They called the Sheriff’s office to report that Jack (I can’t even pronounce his real name) had stolen a bunch of money and some of their personal belongings when he ran off. The new Mustang he was driving? It was stolen from the dealership; he wrote a check for the down payment, and the check bounced. The clothes I had been gifted? The store had called the Sheriff’s office after a “little Asian man” set off the shoplifting alarms and took off running. The porcelain figurine? The boutique (belonging to my friend’s grandparents) had reported a Chinese shoplifter. And how did the Sheriff come to find me? The family Jack lived with found my name, phone number, and address on a notepad in his room. The Sheriff called my mom, and they put 2 and 2 together. I was scared shitless. The Sheriff told me that if Jack called me again to find out where he was and pretend like I missed him.
The next night Jack happened to call; I fought off the dry heaves and told him I was having second thoughts about not going with him because (gag) I think I had feelings for him. He told me he was at the Sheraton in Daytona Beach. I called the Sheriff and told him. Come to find out later that there was no Sheraton (at that time) in Daytona Beach. I never heard from Jack again.
Several months later he was arrested in Virginia. The dealership got their Mustang back. Jack went to jail. And me? I didn’t give any man the time of day for over a year, and, to this day, I feel panicky every time I go out for Chinese food.