|Manager of Chinatown Senior Lunches|
According to a website that features a list of "Senior Nutrition Programs" in the Los Angeles area, the Chinatown lunches and the ones available at a Korean restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. are "partnerships" with the Saint Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS). I'm not sure if that accounts for the miserable experience I had when I ventured into Chinatown's Golden Dragon at 10:20 a.m. today.
On the SBSS website's list (http://www.sbssla.org/meal-sites/), it merely states that lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. But in Griffith Park, we are warned that the "numbers" get handed out starting at 10:30 a.m. Then lunch is served at Noon. The rhyme and reason for this seems to hint that folks just have nothing better to do than hang out at a senior center for 1.5 hours every morning.
So I assumed that the 11:30 a.m. Chinatown lunchtime meant they started handing out numbers at 10:30 a.m.
At Griffith Park and also Hollywood (the Santa Monica Blvd. location), attendees arrive, sign in (they have to be signed up first if they are new), receive a button with a number on it, and place their "donation" of $2.00 (seniors) or $4.00 (non-seniors) into a box. Procedure varies from there: Griffith Park has a large room with round tables and many rooms plus a veranda where one might escape the madding crowd if socializing isn't their thing. Folks line up when a bell rings (the more infirm are served first where they are already seated at tables), in no particular order (despite the numbers) for cafeteria-style service. At the senior center on Santa Monica Boulevard, attendees sit at the tables and are actually served full plates of food.
So anyway, I walk to the back of the Golden Dragon Restaurant to find what appears to be utter chaos. Crowds of people are kind of pushing against each other like hurricane victims in a shelter. They kind of surround this woman whom I was told is the "manager" (see photo above) and she is somehow directing them to do something, but I'm not sure what. No English is spoken.
The man in front of me (and not part of the shoving crowd) had a clipboard where he was signing in. Eventually, I was directed to a table behind me where a woman sat handing out numbers on slips of paper. A number of people stood talking to her or sat at her table with her. The mood was frantic and disorganized.
So I asked her for a number.
"You need sit down over there. Wait for manager." She pointed to a nearby empty table, which was some distance away from the action. I sat down.
Nothing seemed to be edging me towards registration. I asked when I could sign up. She finally said:
"You wait. 11 o'clock!"
|Number Ticket Lady|
So here is what I'm not understanding:
Why doesn't it explain these details on the available website information? Here's the link:
Here's what it says:
St. Barnabas Senior Services offers delicious, hot meals to adults 60+ at 14 congregate meal sites. Low-income older adults dine for free with a suggested donation available. In addition to a nutritious lunch, diners have the opportunity to socialize with each other. Morrison, Golden Dragon Restaurant and Keungama Tofu House are partners for our meal sites. Click each icon on the map to learn more about our sites. Meal sites in orange designate SBSS Senior Centers.I'm sorry, guys. But I think I've discovered what the "BS" in SBSS stands for!
I sat there for a few minutes, watching streams of Asian senior citizens come through the back door to the parking lot--some in wheelchairs, pushing walkers.
I look so young that I only recently found out that nobody at the senior centers thinks I qualify in the $2.00 category. (May it always be thus!) So my blonde hair and my youthful appearance wasn't helping matters at this Chinatown location. As I sat assessing my chances, the odds for me getting registered and fed were looking dismal.
Needless to say, the hostility towards me was intense, but I spent years in Chinatown learning Tai Chi and becoming friends with some Chinese who lived there (and some Vietnamese). Most have passed on now. They were kind and wonderful to me. However, when it comes to being a stranger in C-Town, I am no stranger to the often brusque manners...so that was the least of my concerns today.
What concerns me more is that this seemingly elitist procedure (if one could call this mess a "procedure") does not appear to welcome newcomers or have any place for them (maybe a Chinese person might fare better than I as a newbie, but I have no way of really knowing, given the hoards of probably "registered" attendees pouring through the door).
I might have been jumping to a conclusion that there would not be any number left for me at 11 a.m., but maybe not?
At any rate, I will be notifying the City of Los Angeles, Department of Aging, and St. Barnabas of my experience and concerns.
I do believe people who think Chinatown is an option for their senior lunch under this program should be warned and told the truth about what to expect. If you are not Chinese, and have not been coming regularly...forget it.
Meal Listings on the SBSS website: http://www.sbssla.org/meal-sites/
Email Address for Contacting Department of Aging (Umbrella under which all this falls):