Monday, March 10, 2014

Sorry, Madam, It's Not Available

Last week I was with a group of friends from my photography class at a Lebanese restaurant at the souq.  Several people chose the same thing from the menu and smiled expectantly while they waited for our server to take their orders.  Kathy started us off.

“I’ll have the halloumi salad, please.”

“Sorry, madam.  Not available.”

“OK.  Then I’ll have the halloumi wrap.”

“Sorry, madam.  Also not available.”

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Those with similar orders scrambled to find something else on the menu.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the cuisine, halloumi in Lebanese restaurants is kind of, well, mandatory.  You might say that it's the poster child of Middle Eastern cheeses.

I shouldn't have been surprised.  The first sign that something was amiss was when our family went to Buffalo’s Restaurant for lunch a couple of weeks prior to this.

After a morning of hockey and a couple of hours at the Terry Fox Run on National Sports Day, we decided on a late lunch at the new restaurant. Our server patiently wrote down our orders, smiling as the six of us, in turn, ordered a plate of wings.  We started to hand him back our menus when he said, in his sweet Tagalog-accented English:

“Sir, madam?  Just to let you know?  The wings?  They are not abailable.”

You can understand how we were fooled, what with the glossy pictures of Buffalo chicken wings all over the restaurant and the word “Buffalo” in their name.

“Right now, we only have the boneless.  Not with the bone in.”

Now, all the members of my immediate family are what some might call “wing enthusiasts”.  Hardly a week goes by when I haven’t split, skinned, baked, and doused in Frank’s Red Hot five kilos of chicken wings.  Simply put, we're purists.  So it’s hard for us to accept that boneless wings are actually wings.  It's like someone would like us to believe that some elf-like Chicken Carcass Worker has examined every wing and carefully pulled each bone out of it.  Like they haven’t instead hacked off some other non-wing and non-bone chicken body part, breaded it, deep-fried it, and called it a day.

But we ate our “wings” anyway.  I glanced at the sign above the door as we were leaving.  “Buffalo’s – Try our wings! (JK Lol!!)”

I hadn't noticed that last bit on the way in.

Surely the unavailability of staple items at Doha establishments was the exception, not the rule.  I had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Twice.  It happens.  Armed with this confidence, I ventured to Tim’s Horton’s today to buy a couple of tins of ground coffee.

“Sorry, madam, the coffee is not available.”

My hand flew up to my right eyelid, which had begun to twitch violently.

I ordered a small Iced Capp to calm my nerves.  A Tim Horton’s coffee shop with no Tim Horton’s coffee?  Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter what we drink in the morning, then, does it?  Might as well put ground camel turds in the filter and run some hot water through it.  Would that be coffee?  No, it would not.  At this point, who the hell cares.

But then it occurred to me that there was a Carrefour grocery store in the same mall as the Tim’s, and back in the day before there was a Tim’s in Doha, I used to slum it and drink Carrefour brand coffee.  Not the next best thing, but it would do in a pinch, and seemed far more appealing than camel turds.

I marched with renewed purpose down the beverage aisle, my eyes peeled for the familiar blue package.  I got all the way to the instant hot chocolate at the end of the row and turned back and looked again.  Nothing.  It appeared as though this particular Carrefour location DID NOT CARRY CARREFOUR-BRAND COFFEE.

Despondent, I came home and barricaded myself in my room, away from the creators of this twisted conspiracy, where I've been holed-up ever since.  If anyone calls tell them I’m not available.