Ph34r and Loathing at Anna Millers

I was on to my fourth temp job, and was beginning to have my doubts about this country. I was sub-ing as a cook for a guy named Ootaka, who was attending his son's bar-mitzvah, or whatever they call that particular rite-of-passage in Shintoism. From the ordering window behind the serving counter, I could see the length of the restaurant. What was left of it, at least.

Half of the four-by-four tiles were missing from the drop ceiling, to begin with. The guy with the SEGA jacket and the bishonen in the Sony trench coat were taking turns pulling them down, one at a time. The SEGA guy yelled "Pull!", drew an automatic that sounded like a cannon when it went off, and drilled a fist-sized hole through the center of the ceiling tile that the Sony bish had spun up into the air. When the bish took his turn, he used a pistol-grip shotgun that pretty much disintegrated each tile he hit, filling the air with fragments that looked like dirty grey snowflakes.

You'd think this kind of shoot-'em-up would alarm the other customers, but they were occupied with their own activities. A group of young men with measuring tapes was trying to corner one of the waitresses, who was holding them off with a coffee pot in each hand. She was aided by the fact that the group seemed more than a little disoriented. They kept chanting something over and over, but the only words I could make out for certain were "...presenting falsely!"

Another group appeared to be playing championship-level "bumper tables". One table was being pushed by a spike-haired muscle-man wearing a mask and a hoodie that said "N1NJ4" on the front. A wild-haired guy with an "3v1l l33t" t-shirt and some sort of intricate-looking sphere in one hand was standing on the table, riding it with the flair of an expert surfer. A small girl in a high-school uniform and huge earrings was pushing the other table, though she looked a little distressed about it. A goth chick with black ribbons in her hair was riding this table with casual aplomb, standing at the forward edge with her feet together, her arms held out gracefully to either side. She swayed only a little when the tables crashed together.

A blonde guy with long bangs parted to either side of his face, and a cute junior-high aged girl wearing a choker and pigtails, were using ketchup and mustard squirt bottles to execute a complex mural on the restaurant's front window. It looked like sad girls with rail-guns, but I may have had a bad viewing angle.

An extremely statuesque young woman leaned casually against the front door with one hand, a distracted expression on her face. On the other side of the door a crowd of teenagers were trying to force their way inside. Some were holding signs proclaiming "Hayasaka Rules", while others were brandishing what looked like long-handled croquet mallets. There was some kind of argument going on among them:

"Her singing!" shouted one group.

"Her acting!" shouted the other.

"Her singing!"

"Her acting!"

"Her singing!"

"Her acting!"

Someone yelled "Less filling!" and got smacked around a bit.

Near at hand someone said "What's going on? What's gotten into everyone?"

"Beats me," I said, watching the riot. "They all just suddenly got out of hand." I looked down and to the side, where a waitress named Megumi was crouching wide-eyed beneath the serving window. "So, this isn't something that happens here a lot?"

"Certainly not!" Megumi said indignantly, then looked a little uncertain. "Though recently..." She let her voice trail off without finishing her thought, turned around and rose just high enough to peek out the serving window. She ended up nose-to-nose with a hamster, who was sitting on one of the shelves in the serving window where food is placed for the waitresses to pick up. The hamster was puffing on a long-stemmed pipe, scaled for his size, and wore a pair of strap-on bird wings. The hamster squeeked at Megumi, drew on the pipe, and expelled a long stream of minty smoke toward a cat (who was wearing strap-on bat wings) lying curled on its back on the steam table. As the smoke reached the cat it emitted a gentle "rowr" and wriggled contentedly.

Megumi said "Eeep!" and backed quickly away. I put out an arm to prevent her from backing into the stove. "Careful there," I said.

Megumi turned and looked down into one of the big pots, her nose wrinkling. "What's this?"

"My special sauce," I said. "I use it on almost everything."

"It smells funny. What's in it?"

I shrugged. "Scallions, mirin, daishi, shiitake mushrooms. Stuff like that."

"Shiitake mushrooms?" Megumi said, doubtfully. " I'm pretty sure we don't use those."

"I found them in a big mason jar, way up there," I said, pointing to a high shelf at the back of the kitchen.

Megumi stared, first at the shelf, and then at me. "Up there? But...that's where Ootaka keeps his personal stuff." I stared back, then we both turned and looked out into the restaurant.

At that moment there was the sound of a tremendous crash, and the "3v1l l33t" table rider went flying by the waitress with the coffee pots. One of the guys stalking her lurched forward and managed, while she was distracted, to wrap his measuring tape around one of her coffee pots. "Got it!" he exulted, then staggered back screaming as a stream of hot coffee landed on the front of his pants. He managed to keep hold of his tape, however, and forgot all about his pain as he blinked unbelievingly at the measurement. He sank to his knees, looking toward the ceiling with tears streaming down his face. "A record!" He sobbed. "I am not worthy!" The waitress made her escape as his friends crowded around him, kowtowing in reverence.

"What kind of mushrooms do you suppose those were?"* asked Megumi.

I shook my head. "More to the point," I said, "how long do you think it'll be before they wear off?"

*Although Japan has some of the strictest drug laws in the world, for a time a bizarre loophole in the law allowed the open vending of hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote buttons, which became popular among some segments of society. The loophole was subsequently closed, sometime in 2002 or 2003.

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