BAOTU – THE FACE OF HARD WORK: Her name is Baotu, 趵突泉, in Chinese it means ‘New Spring’. She works at The New Empire Szechuan Garden Chinese restaurant at 43-42 46th Street, my street, in Sunnyside, Queens. She works long, long hours in the back, over the hot griddles and frying oils, always smiling, always saying hello, ever cheerful. You will see Baotu working Christmas eve, Easter Sunday, New Years eve, never visibly complaining, always rushing about, always greeting you with that smile on her face.
In the July 2006 mass blackout due to the extreme July heat wave, she was filling orders in the scorching heat that reached over 110F degrees in their restaurant. I will never, never forget it, Baotu was a whirl of activity as she juggled the orders, sweat pouring from her face. In the blackout there were no stores open, no places to buy food, but there she was with her co-workers, with no fans, working harder than anyone would in that heat. Several dogs died on my block of heat exhaustion, many people had to be hospitalized as the heat reached 100+ degrees for three days straight and the blackout lasted ten days in our neighborhood of Sunnyside. People slept on their fire escapes, mom slept sitting upright at an open window. We did what we could, but everyday as we passed the little Chinese restaurant, there they were, working so, so hard from morning to night.
This New Years Eve I decided to celebrate at home with mom, the sane thing to do. Past midnight I had to walk Noel our dog, as I passed by the Empire Szechuan Garden…there at 12:45 am, was Baotu, greeting me with a “happy new year” as I passed by and then she quickly returned to her griddle. This dear sweet woman always reminds me not to complain too much, I just think of Baotu, the humble smiling face of hard work.