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Manic menu lady
(Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur)

April 1994
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Manic menu lady

Every evening she's outside, waving her menus, spotting previous customers as they walk down the street, calling them by name. She remembers everything they ate, what they liked, what they didn't. "Where's your friend tonight?" she asked me, a week after I last stopped by. "Never mind, sit down, we knew you come tonight, we make your favorite."

Around midnight, when the foot traffic has slowed, she has time to sit and share a beer with her customers. As she talked about the business, it was amazing to learn the level of detail with which she categorizes and remembers people. Tiny details tell her what country they come from (and what language they will speak), whether or not they're vegetarian, whether they'll want a beer or a Coke. And with all that computation going on, she still has a joke for everyone.

2001 update: Well, the restaurant has expanded and remodeled, and she's still there, waving those menus from sundown till closing time. But she looked more haggard than before; the years seemed to have worn off her smile. Too bad.

2003 update: No sign of her.

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