So I am in the mood for Asian  food. For the past week I have stopped at Panda Express maybe three times. I place my order. "I'll have that and that, and yes, I know that dish costs extra." I have it down. I know what I want and I order it.

Now, the Panda Express in Bozeman is staffed with fresh-faced young people. I think everyone is over 6 feet tall. Is it the water, the fresh air? Why are they so tall and healthy looking?  I never noticed how tall the crew at Panda Express in California was. This crew at the Bozeman shop is so happy I feel like I had better act happy too.

Hi! Fried rice? Would you like a sample?

Here's one of Dominick's rules: NEVER take a sample when there are 3 or 4 people in line after you. Just don't. It's rude. I remember one time this guy and his girlfriend kept trying samples. The line was nine people long. I looked at the people in line with me. We were all waiting as this couple tried another thing and another thing. I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing. You could feel the hate we all had for this rude couple.

Again, never have a sample when the line is long.

I walk up to pay and the young, happy, fresh-faced Montana kid says, "Would you like to give your change to help sick children?"

The bill was $10.11 so I was giving almost a dollar. Who are these children? What made them sick? People are looking at me as I try to figure out if I want to help sick children with my change or not.

I say yes. I am shamed into it.

A few days later, same Panda Express, same question. Can't this kid see in my eyes that I don't want to give my change to him? Am I going to have to stop coming here? He asks again. I say, "No, I don't care about children!" He laughs. Great. I made a joke and didn't have to explain that I live on a budget, etc.

Yesterday, I am at Panda Express checking out. The bill is $10.11. Another kid who I have never seen before says, "Your change for sick children?"

It worked before, so I will make the same joke again.

"No, I hate children," I tell him, waiting for a laugh or a smile.

He looks at me and says, "You hate children?"

I say nothing. I just want my change and my food.

"You were a child once yourself. Do you hate yourself?"

I don't know what to say. I think I broke this kid's heart. It seems like 10 minutes pass. I try to save myself by laughing, so he knows I was joking and I say, "I was a rotten kid."

He doesn't laugh. I am laughing trying to show him it's all a joke. Nothing.

So I start explaining. "If I want to give money to charity it will be the charity I pick. You know, some charities only use about 10 cents of every dollar really goes to help. I helped raise almost a million dollars when I worked for a radio station in San Francisco..."


Everyone's looking at me. I am a crazy guy, they are all thinking.

The kid doesn't know what to do. I take my change and leave.

I wonder how many Panda Express restaurants there are in Bozeman. Because I cant go to that one again.


Seafood Expert

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