Wanting Indian food, Michael and I decided to have dinner at Pakwan last night, a divey Indian/Pakistani joint in the Mission. The prospect of cheap Na’an and a loose BYOB policy attracted us, and after spending 6 hours looking for parking, we grabbed a liquor store bottle of screw top Chardonnay and got in line. At Pakwan, one’s forced to fight for a menu, pushing your way though a line of hipsters and finally ordering at a counter as a impatient moustached gentleman in food stained clothing angrily asks, “You like spicy?!?!”
“Uh, yeah. Do we like spicy? I don’t know. Do you want spicy? Me? I like spicy. You? Okay, okay, we want spicy. Jeez.”
We found a table covered in filth, grabbed two opaque glasses from the shelf, unscrewed our wine and settled in. The place was hopping, as it usually is, filled with a mix of dreadlocked hippies, Mission hipsters and the dreaded Free-Tibet yuppies. You know these people. They’re the kind of people that drive new Volkswagons and pat themselves on the back every time they recycle. These are the people that think they’re doing the world a favor by going to Peet’s instead of Starbucks. These are the kind of people who go to artsy political movies just so they can mention it at cocktail parties and make the rest of us that went to The Breakup feel like assholes. I hate these people and I assure you, they do not belong in Pakwan.
We sat there, forcing down what can only be described as brake fluid, anticipating our dollar na’an and fried lentils. All of a sudden, what can only be described as What About Bob comes over to our table. Spotting no empty spots in the tiny restaurant, he asks if we’ll be using the “whole table.”
“Oh, uh, no. Oh, uh, god. No, sure. Yeah. Sit with us. Uh, yeah. No problem. Really.”
Mikey and I look at each other across the table as Bob Wiley settles in, slamming down a carafe of water and arranging his 47 napkins in some sort of scientific order. Over a microphone, stained shirt man calls our number in a language I believe to be an obscure dialect of Hindi. Pakwan is actually great, because for surprisingly little money, you get a ton of food and help yourself to plates and forks and spoons and mysterious sauces in ketchup squeeze bottles. It’s kind of like Camp Calcutta.
Forced to fit all 11 plates onto our now tiny table space, we ate in virtual silence, as every word we spoke was clearly and openly providing entertainment for the literature-less Bob. It became so awkward and uncomfortable, we were no longer able to stifle giggles. Bob was oblivious, forcing cauliflower down his gullet with forkfuls of rice. Picking at our food and waiting for some privacy, we watched Bob finish and sit, proudly looking over his plates, breathing heavily. Suddenly, he began to cough. Now, when I say he was coughing, I don’t mean he was clearing his throat. I mean, he spent a good 10 minutes sitting there staring into space hacking up a lung like a scene from Outbreak. Michael actually leaned back and uttered, “Oh my god…”
Bob was able to pass whatever object blocked his windpipe and moved on, babystepping out of Pakiwan and onto the streets of San Francisco to no doubt infringe on someone else’s space and disperse bacteria onto their Tikka Masala. We exhaled and leaned back into our chairs as he departed, marveling at the perfectly empty and available table behind ours. Thankfully, while he was dining with us I was able to capture Bob on film. Michael is adamant that I point out that the camera is providing my perspective looking into the wall mirror, and I’m sitting in between the mirror and Bob. I think this is clearly obvious, but Mikey apparently lacks faith in your ability to figure out that the only way I was able to capture this elusive freak was to get his reflection in the mirror. I mean, a direct hit may have broken my camera.
We spoke freely for the rest of our meal and marveled at Bob’s brazen behavior. But, it’s not like we could hassle him. Because, you know, he's local…