I met up with a New York friend, who is known to embrace a good time, in Hong Kong. He was there for a few days to attend a global private equity conference.
The night of the conference’s big dinner, he finagled me a pass and a seat at his dinner table. I pieced an outfit together that could qualify as “business formal” and met him midway through the meal. During introductions, I elusively danced around the subject of where I work. As I became more comfortable at the table, the Indian gentleman sitting next to me (with a “vegetarian” place card in front of him) inquired whether I knew if the appetizer, a slice of brown something served with bok choy, was vegetarian. I took a bite and told him that i thought it was a mushroom. But apparently, according to the lady sitting on the other side of him, it wasn’t. He was outraged as if I had deliberately tried to trick him.
I picked up the menu that was laying in the center of the table in order to determine exactly what we were being served. The menu was inconclusive. After placing the menu back down, I whispered to him (it was in the middle of a speaker) that the menu provided nothing of value. So, I went back to finishing my appetizer, whatever it was, and turned to see that the menu had burst into flames. My friend just stared at it. I glanced between my water and wine, thought for a quick moment, grabbed the water and threw it at the menu. The flame was extinguished and I had earned my place at the table.