My lunch started with a thank you

When it comes to nasi lemak, Village Park at Uptown Damansara is one of my go-to places, especially when I’m in need of a good fried chicken fix.

Even when all you want is to laze around at home, the combination of fried chicken and sweet sambal can really make you get out of the house for lunch. The thought of the place being crowded with people though… not so much.

Village Park is known for their long queues and full tables. The normal situation would be — queue for a table, get a table, order your food, get your food and once you’re done, the waiters will take the plates away as a polite way of saying, “hey, we’ve got other customers waiting in line. Would it be okay for you to leave, please?”

During my visit for lunch, my dad, brother and I were seated at the only empty table available, at the corner of the room next to a working table. Beside us, there were stacks and stacks of banana leaves, some were already cut up into rectangle pieces for the nasi lemak plating, while others still needed some working on.

As soon as we sat, an old Aunty came to clear our table. She put the dirty plates away and wiped off food crumbs using a wet cloth. I observed her and saw the tiredness in her eyes. She had a face mask over her mouth, and her body was able but frail.

Once she was done, I said to her politely, “thank you, Aunty” and she nodded. My brother too said to her, “thank you, Aunty,” and she nodded again. She put the stuff away, washed her hands and disappeared to the front of the shop. We then waited for someone to take our order.

Sekejap ye! — Please wait!,” was all the many waiters told us for the next 10 minutes or so. There were just so many hungry people needing attention. We had no choice but to be patient.

Suddenly the Aunty came back, smiled at me brightly (I could see it through her mask) and asked, “takde orang ambik order lagi? — has no one taken your order yet?” I shook my head. I could see that it wasn’t her job to handle orders but she was kind enough to bring us a menu.

After awhile longer, our order was finally taken by a man in a yellow shirt. The old Aunty was now seated next to me, continuing what it seemed was her primary job for the day, cutting up banana leaves. In a few minutes, the food my dad and brother ordered arrived but mine was still no where to be seen. The Aunty noticed this and asked, “makanan tak sampai lagi? Order apa tadi? — food not here yet? What did you order?”

“Nasi lemak with fried chicken,” I said and I was surprised at how she quickly stood up, went to the counter and brought me my lunch. I was touched. We were the only ones receiving that attention from her. My dad thanked her a few times - all the warm feels.

She then continued her work. The Aunty was very organised, and I could see she took this role of hers very seriously. While she was busy cleaning and cutting up the leaves, she turned towards me and pointed to our table. “Oh, air tak dapat lagi — oh, you haven’t received your drinks.” To which my dad assured her that it’s okay, we had no problem waiting for the drinks.

Despite what my dad said, she took the chance to call out to a nearby waiter to check on our drinks. Gosh, I was quite embarrassed by now! She wanted to best food experience for me and my family, in this very busy food eatery. I thanked her again, and she smiled. A big one this time.

The waiter finally came to our table with a tray of drinks, including ours. He placed the tray on my table and said, “all yours, right?” to which we all laughed, including the old Aunty.

When we finished our meal, I said goodbye to the old Aunty and thanked her again. As I walked out and away from the busy crowd, I realised one thing — the simple “thank you for wiping our table” was how this all started. A gesture that turned her tiredness into a smile.

I truly believe our acknowledgement made her feel appreciated, and she expressed this through her sincere actions. She didn’t have to go above and beyond for us, but she wanted to. I was reminded on so many good values in one afternoon.

That nasi lemak sure was a good one.

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