Numbers for noodles, digits for dumplings

Vanessa’s Dumpling House on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn (and, apparently, Manhattan too) is an aluminium clad saviour!

Serving good Chinese food in a fast, canteen-style setting, Vanessa’s seemed to readily and purposefully attract a consistent trickle of inebriated hipsters (such as myself).

Behind a languid youth operating the till was a wall menu displaying a wide array of food all for incredibly reasonable prices!

The great bargains displayed on the board means you can go to Vanessa’s and not spend too much (as is usually this Yorkshire Alien’s modus operandi) or, you can go there and spend a bit of money by purchasing an excessive variety of tasty Chinese food. There is a lot of choice and it all seemed good (trust me, I went twice).

The first time I visited, I took some time whittling down my options. Once I had, the numbers exchange could begin: I gave my list of order numbers to the lad at the till and he returned the big total $ number, then I punched in my 4 personal finance numbers* which permitted him to give me my personal food number slip! Someone would later shout out my personal food number when all of the individual food numbers I had requested were ready.

*after making sure I had added on a smaller number to the big total number to represent my appreciation for the fluidity of the number exchange, of course.

As you can see, like much of this planet called Earth, Vanessa’s is very centred upon the swift exchange of numbers. In fact, you could probably go there and conduct a highly efficient human interaction powered purely by the exchange of numbers.

However, as I was brimming with the exceptionalism one grant’s themselves while on holiday, I wasn’t going to settle for a purely numeric exchange. I recognised a song playing on the radio and so, like an out-of-place middle-aged person at a frat party, I strummed up a brief conversation with the human till boy about whether he felt the singer of the current bop on the wireless (XXXtentacion) would have made it to the big time.

The conversation was convivial enough and we concluded a firm maybe. Taking my seat amongst the swaying, expectant beards and tattoos, personal number slip in hand, I quickly self-appraised that I might still be ‘cool’.

You don’t have to wait long at Vanessa’s.

Once the first number exchanges had been performed at the till, a team of 6 busy food preparers quickly assembled orders before barking out people’s personal numbers once they were complete.

However, this is where the efficiency of the rapid number exchange hit its most debilitating and perhaps inevitable snag: a reliance on the weary and bleary-eyed customers to remember the one number that was handed to them on a slip merely minutes ago.

Often, these patrons are still clutching the slip in their hand. However, this still seems to offer them little guidance or recollection.

The restless team at Vanessa’s have to hope for a vague awareness from their sozzled patrons, one that prompts them to eventually check the slip in their hand. The team’s disappointment at the patrons irregularity to do this becomes evident in the 4th, 5th and 6th times they croak out “Number 46!” to the blissfully ignorant crowd.

Entertainingly confusing scenes such as this are very familiar to me. They occur regularly in British takeaway haunts late on an inebriated Friday evening. The sort of establishments that may also deck themselves out in easy-clean shining aluminium surfaces.

However, at Vanessa’s, it was exacerbated further by their reasonably sized seating area. The seating area seemed to encourage most awaiting customers to get lost in a world of fiddling with soy sauce and sriracha bottles while slowly grinning across the table at their friends.

I watched several of these numerical exchange breakdowns. They all made for good viewing as I awaited my own order. So did the constant confusion on the whereabouts of a toilet key attached to a purposefully oversized wooden block.

Blurry image I took of the keyholder’s reward. Sooo Brooklyn.

The block’s obscene size had the purpose of maximizing its prominence. The hope being that the impatient drunkards to which it was temporarily bequeathed would not lock it inside the toilet. This did not work. It was both locked in the toilet and inexplicably lost during my brief visit there — more, entertaining ogling as I awaited my order!

If you were to go to Vanessa’s, you would probably end up delighting in all this people watching.

But, then you would probably find, as I did after casting smug contempt at all the number fumblers, that you have now become the delayer. It is now your personal number that has been bellowed, with some exasperation, for the fourth, fifth and sixth time.

Hopefully, in the fog of your consciousness, the shrill cries will strike a muffled bell in your memory and you, like I, will uncrumple the ticket held safely in your hand, with joy spreading on your face like you have just won a raffle. In fact, you will have just got up to speed with the rapid number exchange you willingly entered into a mere 5 minutes ago.

So, after hampering a rapid, reasonable system, I shuffled quickly to the counter with an apologetic smile and finally lay my hands on the delectable numbers I selected in the not too distant past.

They were a sesame pancake sandwich with some pretty decent goyza and bao or 26, 12 and 52 as they are affectionately known at Vanessa’s.

The Sandwich gets a close-up. I had never had one before.

With a plastic bag of ingeniously containered fare, you can now stumble out of Vanessa’s into the Williamsburg night air or you can stay, eat-in and witness more calamitous number exchanges unfold. Either way, you will have eaten like an emperor whilst paying like a mere subject.

That’s it. Go there (if you’re already in New York that is. Don’t go to New York expressly for this, that would be mental and you also would have, just generally, grossly underestimated how much stuff there is in New York).

Until next time, 3, 11 and of course, 17.

Recording my thrifty experiences of recently landing in the U.S from the frugal planet of Yorkshire. Stay on the cosmic shoestring whilst still being a human.

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