One Fraught Order of Falafel

Roti, 1747 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

My latest vegetarian obsession is Roti, the Mediterranean place near the White House. I love the falafel there, because their version is unlike what is served at Amsterdam Falafel, Zaytinya or Maoz. Roti plays hard to get, which is why I’m consumed with it. It closes at 5pm and is not open on the weekends. That’s why I rarely get to eat at the delicious Chicago transplant. Today, an errand took me to 17th street and I gleefully got in line. Oh, I should mention the line. It is long, and thus a testament to the scrumptious nature of Roti food; the good news is, Roti is fast about wrapping up chick pea fritters in warm laffa bread, so the line moves.

After paying, I asked three questions of the jovial immigrant from Africa who assisted me.

“Is there wifi?”

“Yes! Yes, is wifi!”

“Nice! Do I need a password for it?”

“Um…no. No!”

“Great. One last question– this cup that was in the ‘Arnold Palmer’ section  looks like it’s all Iced-Tea…did I pick up the wrong drink?”


Satisfied with what I now realize was inadequate information, I sat down to partake in warm, delicious garbanzo-laden goodness. I could catch up on reading while scarfing. Perfect.

Except the wifi didn’t work.

And my Arnold Palmer did not, in fact, contain any lemonade, at all.

I waved down someone who was working the pristine dining room.

“Excuse me, do I need a password for the wireless?”

Blank look.

“The internet?” I gestured at my laptop.

“No internets. No.” He gestured at my laptop.

“Oh. Well, that man told me there was wifi.” I pointed behind me.

“No. Not work.”

“Oh. Well, maybe you can help me with something else– this Arnold Palmer seems to be all iced-tea. May I add some lemonade to it?”


“Yes, lemonade.”

“Lemon slice? You want lemon slice?”

“No…this drink is a mix of tea and lemonade. There’s no lemonade in it.”

“Lemon slice? I get!”

“No…sorry, that’s not what I want. You know what? I’ll ask him,” I said, smiling and gesturing to an older looking gentleman in a Roti-logoed dress shirt.

The worker’s eyes widened. “Please…no…” His voice trailed off.

I immediately realized what he was thinking and felt terrible for worrying him. His formerly unlined brow wrinkled in consternation.

“Oh, no! No! I’m not going to get you in trouble. It’s okay! It’s okay…”

He nodded quickly and relaxed a bit, but looked at me twice before hurrying away.

I took a deep breath. Yes, I had paid for one drink and received another. Yes, I mistakenly thought there was wireless and there wasn’t. So what? I had enjoyed my sandwich in peace, savoring each bite instead of listlessly chewing as I scrolled through news. I was suddenly keenly aware of how the whole situation looked. Seersucker sundress, MacBook, smartphone…and difficult to please.

Self-awareness coursing through me, I had another, more painful epiphany– a reminder of my own immigrant parents, struggling forty years ago. Had people complained about them? Made their lives harder over something relatively minor? Guilt surged within. Additionally, I had worked as a cocktail waitress and done holiday retail. I remember the terror I felt whenever people had asked to see my manager. I turned and looked for the worker I had scared, but he was gone. Instead, the manager was standing in front of me.

“You look like you need something. Can I help?”

“Uh…well, is there a password for the wireless?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. The wireless is not working. Did someone tell you it was?”

“Yes-” I immediately felt awful. What if I just got someone in trouble? UGH. CHANGE SUBJECT.

I smiled. “Well first, let me say that my food was delicious. Second, is there any way I could get a splash of lemonade? I think I picked up the wrong drink, thinking it was an Arnold Palmer.”

“Is that not an Arnold Palmer?”

“No, it’s all iced-tea.”

“Oh. Oh, I think we ran out of lemonade, come to think of it. Please, help yourself to whatever you’d like, of course.” He looked at the drink case where I had chosen the cursed cup. “Hmmm, they shouldn’t have put those there…”

“You know, I probably grabbed the wrong thing and got confused”, I stammered.

He smiled kindly. “Well, why don’t you try one of the bottles? They’re all really good.”

“Thanks, I think I will.”

The man took my tray and I walked towards the drink case, torn between guilt over potentially affecting someone’s livelihood and a sense of exhaustion born from extreme loyalty and compassion. I grabbed the first soda I saw and walked out.