Category Archives: NineToFive outside the 925

Infiltration and brainwashing: You have a thousand serious moves

Chessboard (ii)
A chessboard awaits potential players in an Oakland park, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

The Lovely L Lady asked me this evening, “So, what do you do during this meditation?”

“Well. I just close my eyes and concentrate on dua [supplications] and dhikr and any other prayers I have memorized.”

“Oh, good,” she said in mock relief. “I thought maybe you’d gone and joined a cult, or something.”


How funny is it that, just a few days after I posted about my dinner/meeting at the Tandoori Cafe, I ran into one of the women at the Wednesday gathering tonight? They’re even infiltrating my meditation sessions now! The best part is, I couldn’t even be exasperated or annoyed. All I could do was throw my hands up in surrender, and laugh. Thanks, God; I always knew You had a sense of humor. Clearly, you’re the one winning in this sublime chess game we’ve got going on.

Talking at the tandoori cafe

Sunshine seating at the New Tandoori Cafe, San Jose
Sunshine seating at the New Tandoori Cafe, San Jose, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I had dinner tonight with two women I met a couple of months ago at a work-related event. They somehow took a liking to me, and expressed interest in meeting up sometime. Sure, I said, thinking, New friends! After some back and forth, we finally managed to coordinate schedules. By the time this evening finally came around, I was tired and wanted nothing more than to just head straight home after work, but I take dinner plans too seriously to back out on a whim. Plus, I reminded myself, New friends! So, I went.

We met up at the New Tandoori Cafe in San Jose, and marveled at all the menu options while I explained the details of Desi food: aloo naan, chicken pesto naan, garlic naan; tandoori salmon; chicken tikka masala and chicken tikka boti; pakoras and samosas and all the usual Desi(-American) fare. Food ordered, we sat back and made small talk and questioned one another about our lives. Born and raised in Germany, one of them had moved to the United States when she was 26. The other was Japanese, and had immigrated to the U.S. in her early twenties. “So, were you born here, or in Pakistan?” asked the German woman.

“Here,” I said. “In Berkeley.”

“Oh. So you don’t know what it’s like to be different, then.”

I felt a flash of annoyance. “Actually, I know exactly what that’s like.” I elaborated a bit, then added, “I didn’t become comfortable with who I was until during college” – the end of college, I didn’t add. I studied the brightly painted, stuccoed map of South Asia on the Tandoor Cafe walls. In large black letters, the multicolored countries are labeled Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. I think there may be countries missing from the map.

We talked about our families, faith, life in the Bay Area, travel and education, the work we do. They wanted to hear about the Chicago conference from which I just returned, so I filled them in. Dinner arrived, and we dug in. Midway through the meal, one of the women said, “So, we wanted to invite you to our event…” and pulled out an invitation letter and a flyer. Something inside of me deflated a little. I should have guessed. This wasn’t a friendly, let’s hang out and become friends meal. It was all about work – projects and programs and events and meetings and networking. And there is absolutely nothing negative about the work that each of us does, as far as I’m concerned. But I should have known our little dinner was going to be about this, too.

In a word, it was disappointing. Over the past 16 months, I have grown accustomed to seeing the boundary lines between my personal and professional life become blurred and less defined. There is some satisfaction in this – knowing that I’m meeting like-minded individuals, all of us fighting the good fight; knowing that I’m doing something constructive with my life. But it also means that my personal has become my professional. It means that when I talk about the work I do, I have to bring in the full history of who I am and what I stand for; it means that when I make new friends, we automatically begin brainstorming ways for our respective organizations to work together; it means I vent about work to my family and close friends nearly everyday, yet can’t bring myself to walk away because I know that what I do is important.

Can I just, for God’s sake, attend a meeting or program and not get pulled into telling “my story”? How did my story become inextricably caught up with who I am professionally? I thrive on hearing other people’s stories, but I’m tired of having to talk about myself, and explain myself, and put myself out there every single day, including all the evenings and weekends that get tied up with work-related projects. It’s exhausting.

But I took the pretty invitation and flyer, assured them that I would check my calendar and do my best to be there, asked some questions about the program and expressed how honored I felt to be invited. Which I did. But still, it was disappointing to feel that they had perhaps invited me to dinner not necessarily because of wanting to know me on a personal level, but because they were interested in who I stood for professionally. Which is close to who I am personally. See, I confuse myself. And it brings up a good question: Do I want my life separated into tidy compartments, with no fear of cross-contamination? Isn’t it better this way, where everything is fluid, and flows together? Honestly, I don’t know.

At the end, as we said our goodbyes, one of the women exclaimed, “You give the best hugs!”

“So I’ve been told,” I laughed, then added in my best scary voice, “Bone-crushing!

Thrown to paper and wasted: I can’t even concentrate on this, it’s overthought, anticipated

Hanging out at the art store
Hanging out at the art store, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

It’s never a good idea to blog about work, but I would just like to say: It’s not a part of my job description to waste time answering idiotic questions like, “What should I label this box? ‘Scratch paper’? Or ‘Scrap paper’?”

I am a very important person and I have much more valuable things to do with my time – like eating doughnuts for lunch.

Your light shines brighter than the best

Pencils so pretty, it makes you want to eat them, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

My (3 or more) Beautiful Things posts always contain snippets from a single given day of the week, but, in this case, I haven’t written in a while, so the following is a compilation of things from the past couple of weeks:

one. While driving to work the other morning, I saw a car with a bumper sticker pasted to its back corner. The long, thin strip simply stated mournfully, MY LIFE IS IN RUINS. Seeing as how the driver was at the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee and in seemingly good health, I felt it was safe to smile. Something I thought of just now, while typing out this paragraph: Maybe he’s quite a dedicated archaeologist? (Where’s Ayan with his puns?)

two. Although it’s been two weeks, thinking about the email from my friend about a recent halaqa trip in which I couldn’t participate still makes me laugh. The subject line: WE NEED YOU! The email:

i was just thinking that we can’t do this trip without you.
who will take the photos of every little thing that everyone else will not think about taking a photo of???
who will remind us to eat everytime our stomachs growl but the rest of us are too embarrassed to admit that we are hungry… again…

It’s good to know that even though I’m infamous amongst friends for often forgetting to eat real meals, I’m also paradoxically infamous for my shameless love of food. Oh, and at least someone doesn’t make fun of me for taking photos of seemingly trivial objects (like the evening at the Berkeley Marina, when my friend’s sister said snidely, “That’s just a water faucet.” I felt like stabbing her with someone’s fishing pole. Okay, must concentrate on beautiful things…)

three. I saw a man at the San Ramon gas station who was completely absorbed in leaning against his drivers-side door and reading a book while gas was being pumped into his car. Oblivious to the rest of the world, he remained standing like that for minutes after the pump clicked to signal that his tank was full.

four. Two weeks ago, I walked up to a familiar-looking young man at an event and asked, “Did I meet you at a conference in Oakland?” We established that I had not. He emailed me a few days later, asking if we could meet, since he was curious about my work as well as about my everyday life as a Muslim. I suggested we meet one evening for coffee and talk; we agreed on a time and place. (And I was pleased when he appended his note with, I like the endings to your emails. “Have beautiful days” seems to ensure that there are more to come.)

“I’m going to a coffee meeting with a guy,” I told my work buddy, B.

She was puzzled. “You don’t even drink coffee.”

“Yeah, I know. But saying, ‘Let’s meet over hot chocolate or cranberry juice’ doesn’t have quite the same ring.”

The guy and I met up yesterday at the gorgeous San Jose Museum of Art downtown, and walked over to the Peet’s down the street, where it was quickly established that neither of us are really coffee fans. We laughed and shrugged and ordered frozen blended drinks anyway, then walked back to the outdoor patio tables at the Museum, where I tried to answer his questions about my work and Islam to the best of my ability. In return, he told me about growing up in Iowa (“I have a friend from Cedar Rapids!” I said), the three weeks he spent in Spain (someday, I, too, will visit), and the summer he traveled to Greece to meet his relatives for the first time.

Also, he mentioned the time he and his college wrestling teammates were in the Czech Republic for training, and ran into an Arab team from the UAE, also training for some sporting event. He invited them to dinner with his team, they accepted, and the evening was mostly filled with nods and laughter over good food, since there was only one translator and he couldn’t fulfill everyone’s verbal communication needs. My new friend shrugged, “We didn’t have internet access, so I couldn’t Google them to see what the UAE team was doing in this tiny little city in the Czech Republic.”

I laughed. “Well, if it was three years ago and you still haven’t gotten to it, then just consider it serendipity, and a rocking evening spent making connections with strangers, while eating. You can’t go wrong if there’s food involved.”

Flipping radio stations while driving home, I came across another form of serendipity: KQED Radio broadcasting the Spirituality and Social Change: An Interfaith Roundtable, inspired by the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that was held at Stanford University in January. [Audio, video, and transcript are available on the website linked above.] Imam Zaid Shakir clearly and articulately touched on so much of what I had been struggling to explain to my new friend all evening. I drove home captivated by each speaker’s thoughts on spirituality and social responsibility, compassion and human connection. I remembered telling my friend that in Islam, we are encouraged to think critically, to question, to seek and analyze answers as one way of deepening our own spiritual growth. During the course of the Aurora Forum roundtable, the Rev. Dr. Warnock said something (in reference to Dr. King) that resonated:

For me, critical reflection is an act of worship. It’s part of what it means to be a person of faith, and he’s a thinker, but he’s an engaged thinker. I do think the first act, in a real sense, is what the liberation theologians call praxis: you’re engaged in the world; you’re actually involved in the effort of trying to make a difference.

five. Over dinner, my father was grousing about his recent speeding ticket, which he received while driving with his colleague to the Friday congregational prayers. “I gave him a guilt trip,” said the daddy-o. “I told him, ‘I always drive too fast, but you heading out of work only five minutes before the sermon begins doesn’t help matters, either.’ ”

“Did he offer to pay for part of the ticket?” I asked with interest.

“No,” he said, surprised. “I didn’t even think of that.”

My friends would have been more considerate, and offered to pay half, I bet you,” I said smugly.

“Oh, yeah?” He raised his eyebrows. “Would you offer to pay, if you were with your friend?”

“If they were running late and speeding because of me?” I almost said, Hell yeah!, but swallowed those words and added instead, “Of course!”

The daddy-o laughed and raised his hand for a high-five. “See? That’s because I raised you well.”

Keep the same appointments I kept, if you try walking in my shoes

Rainbow skirt
Rainbow skirt, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

In response to an email I sent earlier today, a colleague replied simply,


You’re so good with detail.

In a few simple words, he managed to cheer me up and, for now, make it all okay: The long hours; the nonstop conference calls, meetings, and events that take up nearly all of my time; the fact that I’ve only had one weekend day off from work-related stuff the last two weeks, and it’ll be the same for the upcoming two weeks as well. And I hate canceling plans with friends when we’ve looked forward to our hanging-out-in-the-city date for months now – especially when I, with all my attention to detail, invited all the rockstars to hang out together and offered suggestions on where to go and what to do. I had to smile when B sent out an email saying, “Thanks to Yasmine, our master coordinator.” Being the master coordinator sucks when all the plans are a moot issue now.

So, here I am – I and my obsession with detail – stressing over deadlines when it’s a beautiful 72 degrees outside and I could be sitting in the sunshine I petitioned God for all winter long (okay, so I sort of demanded rather than requested, but, hey, He made it happen, didn’t He?).

I wish there were a way I could fast-forward this week to Saturday already.

Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine

Somehow I trick myself into believing that if I go around wearing floaty summer dresses, winter will end all the sooner
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

I took the above photo in mid-January and uploaded it to flickr in mid-February. The title:

Somehow I trick myself into believing that if I go around wearing floaty summer dresses, winter will end all the sooner.

The caption:

This day’s wardrobe consisted of the following: Flared jeans + floaty summer dress + gray sweater + puffy down vest. Four, five layers on any given day is quite normal, as far as I’m concerned. This is what happens when one is a proponent of the HIPPIEFUNK style.

Also, the lighting in this photo is on crack, and winter is not ending anytime soon. Both of these things bother me – the latter more so than the former, obviously.

Well, guess, what? My trick WORKED! It’s mid-March now, and we’ve had temperatures in the 70s and 80s for the last week or so. That, coupled with the recent Daylights Savings time change (which means it gets dark later now), are as perfect as it can get. It’s only too bad I’ve barely gotten a chance to enjoy the sunshine and daylight, since I still leave work later in the evenings anyway. Lunch break? What’s that?

Stop sniveling and get over it

Get stoned at work
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

Driving along to work this morning, I heard on the radio that today is Get Over It Day. The website is hilarious – you can type out what you want to get over, and click “submit,” and it turns into a piece of paper that gets tossed into the blazing bonfire on the homepage. Here are some issues that people are getting over. Also, some girl called in to the radio station, sniffling that she wanted to get over her ex-boyfriend named Alex, who had just dumped her. Also, she was twelve. TWELVE! Yes, I laughed.

Anyway, one of my personal philosophies has always been, If you refuse to do anything about it, then you have no right to whine about it, and it’s served me well so far. In all honesty, though, Princess Pretty Pants and I whine quite a bit whenever we’re around one another – but, in our defense, at least it turns into fun stuff. Like the time PPP and HMan and I trudged up the summit path in Muir Woods. By the end of it, PPP and I were hella tired, we couldn’t even see the ocean from the top of the mountain, we whined about how much our feet ached, and we stubbornly refused to walk all the way down to my car.

So, we all hitchhiked instead. TWICE.

Beautiful solution.

A lot of my whining lately has been about work – when I can even muster up the energy to whine. And, of course, there are always random trivial things I should get over.

Things I’d like to get over:

– People who call me and don’t leave voicemessages, and then get offended when I deliberately don’t return their calls
– People who answer the phone with a tentative, questioning, “Hello?”, even though they can perfectly well tell it’s I who am calling
– People who reply to my text message(s) by immediately calling me back. If I had really wanted to have a verbal conversation with you, don’t you think I would have called you directly?

Okay, enough with the phone.


– Work-related meetings on weekday evenings
– Work-related meetings/events on weekends
– People who are micro-managers
– Traffic
– People who don’t wave when you let them merge into your lane
– People who make hanging-out plans that don’t involve food. What kind of friend are you?
– Friends who make me miss the previews when we go out to see a movie together (I LOVE previews, dammit)
– People who borrow my beloved books and music CDs and then lose them or somehow just never get around to returning them to me
– My own possessiveness about personal items like clothes, books, and accessories

What would you like to get over?

The sun must come

flickr beach collage via H_A
All photos originally uploaded by yaznotjaz; collage created last summer by Hashim_A, rockstar (and tea-lover. gross!) extraordinaire. Photos may be individually viewed in the Muir Beach photoset.

Tomorrow is the sister’s birthday, and in ten days it’s mine – and I’m so horrible at this birthday business, mine or anyone else’s. Last year, all I wanted for my birthday was sunshine. This is a predictable wish, and it worked out quite well in 2006. I already know how I’m going to spend the last day of my birthday month, this year. It’s the first day that I’ve got to figure out.

Today, I spent the morning at the dealership, learning that a 30,000 mile service and new brake pads and rotors on my car would cost a whopping grand total of $810+tax. Tomorrow morning, I should make them give me a spiffy rental car to make up for it. Spiffy cars can make up for a lot of things. That’s why people buy red sports cars when they go through mid-life crises. Me, I’m going to go through a quarter-life crisis. Perhaps, I might as well have an identity crisis, too, while I’m at it. It’ll be like this morning, when the lovely gentleman who was driving me back home from the dealership asked, “So, where are you from?” And I raised an eyebrow and responded coolly, “Oh, the Bay Area, mainly. But I also grew up living in Sacramento and a few other places.”

“Oh,” he said, and I smiled at him. There was silence for another minute, until he ventured again, politely, “I meant, where are you from originally?” I mentally threw up my hands in defeat, and replied, “Pakistan.”

“Oh, that’s nice!” he said, delighted.
“Yes, it is.”

After this morning’s car-related dramas, I’ve spent the rest of the day at work, because, unlike the rest of America, I’m not off for President’s Day. That sound you hear? That’s the sound of Yasmine unsheathing her stabbing paraphernalia – because, as Hamza asks, “What fun is life without stabbing paraphernalia?” But, seriously, what is this drama about working on a national holiday? It’s disgusting. Almost enough to make a kid contemplate unemployment. I should be sitting outside in the sunshine, looking at the fourteen plastic grocery bags filled with tangerines that we picked this weekend, eating breakfast in the courtyard – all the things my parents were doing this morning when I called home to ask the daddy-o about advice related to my car.

Instead, I’ve spent the day indoors, ostensibly project-planning, but also day-dreaming about sunshine and beaches and warm water and the day my hands will turn brown again, because, as the sister exclaimed over dinner last week, “You’re so white!”

That’s it. When spring is here for sure and the weather stays consistently warm, I’m heading down to Santa Cruz for some sunshine and sand.

Beautiful things from a Tuesday in the month where everyday felt like Monday

yellowsunshine diptych
yellowsunshine diptych, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

From Tuesday, January 23, 2007

one. The Howie Day album I haven’t listened to in over a year because it inexplicably started skipping just as inexplicably works perfectly again when I pop it into my CD player while driving to work. I spend my commute listening to music that reminds me of college, partly because I once used the opening line of Brace Yourself (So you think/You can hold the world up by a string) as a post title to illustrate the hectic days that marked my last quarter of college. Standing in the Sun and This Time Around are two other favorites (I still distinctly remember having just gotten off work one evening, sitting in my car at a traffic light in downtown Sacramento, head turned, glancing at something to my right, as the line I always knew the sun would burn away spilled out of the speakers for the first time), while Numbness for Sound unexpectedly brings back bittersweet memories.

two. I’ve got my favorite Desi restaurant on speed-dial! I walk in to pick up the one, single naan (and nothing else) that I’ve ordered, and the Indian lady at the counter smiles at me. “I’m sorry we didn’t have samosas again,” she says. “The baba who makes them is out today.”

“That’s alright,” I say. “I always come here for the naan anyway!”

“Your friend didn’t come with you today? She was here the other day.”

“Which friend? The tall one?”

“Yes! She’s so beautiful!” says the woman, wide-eyed. “I asked her where she was from, and she said Afghanistan.”

“Oh, did she?” I say, laughing to myself. “She’s Pathan, that’s probably why she said that.” My family and B’s are both from the Attock district in Pakistan, but, as a native Pukhtu speaker, she also identifies quite strongly with Afghan culture. I can’t wait to get back to the office and say accusingly, “Oh, so now you’re Afghan, huh?”

three. In corresponding with a colleague with whom I am working on a project, I send the following note:

Could you please forward this to ______? My email, below, didn’t seem to go through to him. Thanks so much!

His response makes me smile:

Hi Yasmine, I seem to have forwarded it successfully. But, you know, it goes into cyberspace and then what?

four. Scrounging around for writing instruments, I borrow a pen from my co-worker (without telling her) but like it so much that I decide to keep it. This, I guess, would be called stealing, but who cares? My left-handed clumsiness and I are grateful for pretty pens that allow us to write in smooth, streak-free lines.

five. Driving back to the office from the aforementioned lunch, I notice some beautiful yellow flowers planted across the street. I make a u-turn, park illegally, and walk swiftly, camera in hand, down the sidewalk to the corner with the yellow flowers. The image at the head of this post is a diptych of two photos I took that afternoon. Yellow sunshine flowers on a day that feels like Monday are a warm and unexpectedly soothing remedy when spring seems so far away.

Believe it or not, I super-sized my sights on the surprise in the cereal box

This photo somehow reminds me I need more green in my wardrobe
Sprinkles are for happy kids, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Back in the summer, when I first started working where I do now, my new colleague A watched me shovel cold apple pie into my mouth and asked, “Is that your breakfast?”


She rolled her eyes, and I asked, “What? What’s wrong with eating apple pie for breakfast?”

“There are a lot of things wrong with apple pie for breakfast,” she said dryly, but then we were interrupted, and I never did get to hear her reasons.

I am the kid who gleefully grins ear-to ear and and waves my hands excitedly whenever the local Safeway restocks my favorite Mrs. Smith’s Deep-Dish Apple Pie in their freezers. And I bring it home and promptly bake it and then – because the family refuses to share in such excitement – I single-handedly consume the pie for about a week.

At work, I’m known for my various food obsessions. First, there was the rice krispie treats obsession. I still maintain this is B’s fault. When I suddenly turned around from my desk one day and whined, “I’m freakin’ craving rice krispie treats, dammit!”, B laughed and said, “You know, you could buy gelatin-free marshmallows. Or, better yet, get marshmallow cream from Safeway. It has no gelatin in it.”

“Are you serious?!” I went on a marshmallow cream hunt, found it in the baking aisle, and it was just as B had said – no gelatin. I grinned ear-to-ear, waved my hands excitedly, grabbed two boxes of rice krispie treats cereal, and went home to make the snack I hadn’t consumed in, well, nearly two decades. I ate nearly half in one sitting, and took the leftovers in to work the next morning. This was repeated a few times.

Next up: String cheese. One day, I decided string cheese was a good snack for munching on while at work. I bought a few pieces, stuck them in the work refrigerator, pulled them out whenever I felt hungry, and they were good. Especially with cranberry juice (the one obsession I will never tire of). Once I finished the string cheese stash at work, I should have just stopped altogether, but no, I was hooked at this point. Thus, my next brilliant idea was to buy some string cheese from Costco. Do you know how many sticks of string cheese you get in one Costco package? About three freakin’ dozen. “Oh, my god,” said the co-workers, laughing in spite of themselves. “What were you thinking? You know you’re going to have to eat all of those yourself, right?”

I’m so over string cheese now.

My latest interest is in doughnuts from Safeway – not the one closeby my workplace, which is a small, hole-in-the-wall sort of market that caters to the nearby Santa Clara University students and lacks a bakery, but instead the one by my house, which offers hot, fresh doughnuts every morning. The first time I came into work with doughnuts and a bottle of sparkling cider, we took an impromptu break and picked doughnuts out of the pink box, standing around with cider-filled cups in hand, brushing sugar off our faces. B proclaimed them “the best doughnuts [she] had ever tasted.” I’ve decided I can’t go wrong with doughnuts, as long as I don’t do it everyday.

Yesterday morning, in the midst of checking my emails and updating my project plans, I continually muttered to B about how hungry I was. I went so far as open a new tab in my web browser and pull up a list of local stores on “There’s one that’s 0.34 miles away from here,” I informed B, “and it has a bakery. Maybe I should go get some doughnuts.”

I got too distracted with work to follow up on that, but, as lunchtime approached, I had an epiphany: “I need brownies! I’m going to Whole Foods to pick up some brownie bites [mini brownies]. Anyone want anything?” Brownie bites remind me of the summer, when Z still worked there and we used to drive down to Whole Foods nearly every day for lunch (and, in my case, dessert).

One of my co-workers smiled at me when I stopped by her office and posed my question. “I don’t need anything, thank you,” she said.

“Not even a sandwich? Or…a salad?” I asked skeptically. The co-workers are used to me shuddering and making faces whenever they mention salads for lunch, and have long given up on me ever eating salads in their presence. Now, they ask me just to see my reaction. (I always eat a salad with my dinner, actually, but I refuse to consider salad an entire meal. What’s wrong with people? Dessert, on the other hand, always constitutes an entire meal, as far as I’m concerned.)

The co-workers all declined anything from Whole Foods, so off I went with my one-item mental grocery list. Once at Whole Foods, I picked up a mini pumpkin pie, and two packages of brownie bites (one for the office, one for home). I also bought a slice of something called “chocolate eruption cake,” simply because all the whipped cream reminded me of desserts from my beloved Konditerei and Little Prague bakeries. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be even nearly the same.

I got back to work and proudly unpacked my purchases, while the co-workers laughed and shook their heads in dismay. “Yasmine, you just can’t be trusted to go to the grocery store,” said B. I shrugged, and stuffed a brownie in my mouth.

On the way home from work yesterday, I stopped at my usual gas station to fill up the tank. While the gas was pumping, I walked into the convenience store to buy a bottle of water (to drink with my brownie bites, naturally). The gas station employee, a big, bearded man, let out a friendly “Hello!” I turned from the fridge, water in hand, and smiled back. “Hi.” I placed the water bottle on the counter, and he rang it up while asking, “Is that it?”

“That’s it!”

“You sure? Just the water?” He had a friendly, gap-toothed grin, the kind that makes you smile back instinctively. He looked (and sounded) Desi, and I wondered if he were repeatedly questioning me just to make me stay longer. Any second now, I expected him to ask, “Where are you from? Are you [Pakistani/Indian]?” Perhaps he was lonely, being so far from the motherland – but then I reminded myself that this was the South Bay; there were no shortages of fellow Desis ’round here.

Rum-free tiramisu!
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

“Just the water, that’s it.”

“No gum, candy?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You’re not getting any gum or candy?”

I laughed. “I already have brownies in my car.”

“Okay,” he said. I handed him two dollars, and pocketed the change he slid back across the counter. “Have a good day,” he said, smiling again, and I couldn’t help but smile back. “You, too!”

Driving home while munching on brownies (I forgot to drink the water after all), I laughed out loud in the car. “No gum, candy?” I always wonder how even strangers manage to figure out the right questions to ask.