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Young Indie and the Fish Temple of Doom

As a kid, one of my coolest memories of San Francisco was visiting the fortune cookie factory.  Consequently, one morning, I snuggled six month old No. 3 into her Moby wrap strapped across my chest, handed 4 year-old No. 1 her backpack, asked 2 year old No. 2 to put on his shoes, and we hopped onto MUNI.  We BARTed to Montgomery Station, wandered up top, meandered for about a block, and hopped on the 30 to Chinatown.

When we arrived, we found ourselves awash in a sea of people!  No. 1 and 2 made their way slowly through the crowd in front of me.  No. 1 was perfecting her bob and weave.  I stayed close to No. 2, serving as a kind of safety flag.  providing a large slow moving baby-wearing obstacle that caught people's attention even if they didn’t see the kid toddling along at my feet.

 All four of us, have lightning fast metabolisms, so it wasn’t long before we needed a snack.  Fortunately, we were in the right place.  The groceries and bakeries in Chinatown are full of all manner of delightful treats!  Later, we’d learn to duck into a bakery for dumplings when we were hungry, but that day we were relative neophytes.  Used to the relatively quiet little markets of Excelsior, we ducked into the first grocery I saw.

 It was was a delightfully bustling mayhem!  Shoppers bumped through elbow-to-elbow. I managed to snag a giant, delicious looking apple, and we headed for the checkout line… sort of.  Not we sort of headed.  It was sort of a checkout line.  The ‘line’ was a collection of people two, and sometimes three deep that swirled, and rearranged as they made their way, seemingly mostly by osmosis, towards the cash register.  People hopped in front of us, and then scooched a bit back as others hopped in front of them.  All of this was amidst a general din of Mandarin.  

 Finally, one shopper actually lined up behind us.  She’d been to the live fish tank.  That’s right, in San Francisco, you can buy your fish live at the store!  We knew this because she’d placed three live fish head-down in the bag.  As she scrunched in behind us, the fish’s tails gently slapped at the back of No. 2’s head.  He didn’t seem to notice the wet, gentle slaps as we waited in line with our hard-won apple.

 We’d managed to move about two feet in two minutes when an infinitely kind, but brisk patron approached me.  “Is that all you have?” she said pointing at our apple.

 “Uh, yeah.”  I muttered, afraid we were about to be kicked out of line altogether.

 “Give it to me!”


 “Give me the apple!”

 Half trusting that she must know something I didn’t, and half curious to see what would happen next, I handed her our snack.  She wove through the crowd bouncing off a few of the more boisterous shoppers, reached the cash register, proffered up some money, returned, and handed our apple back to me.

 I offered to pay for it, but she wouldn’t take the money.  As if we were escaping a death trap in an overwrought Indiana Jones movie, she looked at us earnestly, and waving both hands at the door behind us, implored, “Go!  Just go!!!”  Heeding her advice, we narrowly escaped before the doomed fish had a chance to come out of the bag and really go after No. 2.  

Standing on the corner, we shared our gigantic, incredibly delicious free apple, and planned the rest of our day in Chinatown.


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