Hop Sing, Fortune Cookie & Piss Ant
by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong
In the movies, you see the scene where all the ladies in the remote jungle village congregate on the banks of the local creek… Do the wash by banging it on the rocks… Laughing and exchanging gossip.
On Pier 22, that was Hop Sing’s laundry truck. Everyone knew that Hop Sing was a colonel in the Chinese communist intelligence community… The name on his truck was ‘WAN-HO CHINESE HAND LAUNDRY… NO TELEPHONE’ It actually had ‘No Telephone’ painted on the side of what was known as Hop Sing’s mobile spy wagon. We called him ‘Hop Sing the Button Crusher’ and his lovely bride was known throughout Squadron Six as ‘Four-tooth Fortune Cookie’… Or just ‘The Fortune Cookie’. And they had a goofy kid who bummed chewing gum and LifeSavers we called ‘Piss Ant’… Hop Sing, Fortune Cookie and Piss Ant… Wan-Ho Hand Laundry… No telephone.
Hop Sing could bust buttons at a rate that must have required a lug wrench or sledge hammer. The only way your dungaree shirts could survive the Wan-Ho laundry process was have a seamstress at Bells cut the sleeves off to short sleeve length… Turn your iron-on rate into a cigarette pocket… Cut the shirttail off and hem the thing so you didn’t have to tuck it in… And sew up the front so it became a pullover. This ‘smokeboat fashion statement’ could make a Master at Arms give birth to a three-toed sloth.
“Heello, my name not Hop Sing… Submarine mans call me Hop Sing… My name Wan Ho… Also not ‘No Telephone Ho’… Submarine man tell much lie… No serious no time… Always laugh… Make joke. Not funny joke… Stupid joke… Submarine man no serious, just always make joke. I say, ‘Why submarine man always be much dirty? Tender man always clean.’ Submarine man say, ‘Tender man always be lazy… Sleep all time and be much worthless sonuvabitch… Tender a floating fun house… Nobody work… Dress in clean uniform and go to circus all day… Eat Crackerjack and see surface craft officers do dog tricks.’ Submarine man say AS-18 stand for amusement ship for 18 year-old loafers… Orion man say submarine man all full of shit… Submarine man don’t know real truth, ever.”
“Submarine man always call wife ‘Fortune Cookie’… Not name fortune cookie… One time wife go make phone call to pay phone next to Quonset hut where is all hydraulic oil… She gone far away… No can hear all bad submarine mans… Submarine man say, ‘Hop Sing, is true all oriental women have cross-ways vagina?’ I say, who say that? Sailor say Encyclopedia Britannica, whatever that is… Must be problem in South Chinese place… Never see such thing.”
“One time submarine man say, ‘Mr. Chopstick man, you put starch in skivvies one more time, I take you skinny ass and bury you in parking place say ‘NO PARK, SQUADRON COMMANDER’ and me spend eternity look at staff car oil pan.”
“Submarine man call little number-one son ‘Piss Ant’. Always give piss ant chew gum and candy… Also give him sailor hat say PISS ANT on front.”
“Mans who ride submarine boats never have two same names in any laundry things. Mans say all names fool Russians to think submarine boats have 600 mans. This is lie… Submarine mans steal all times… Go to sea… Only mans to steal from each other… All submarine mans crooks.”
Hop Sing knew the operating schedule for every boat on the East Coast. This little guy was wired. He could drop little bundles of straight-gauge poop that would have amazed the Chief of Naval Operations.
“No take Requin man laundry… Just sit in truck two weeks… Requin go sea… Make lots ping time.”
“Where’d ja hear that you little sawed-off rice-eater?”
“Wan got sources… Wan in the know… Wan no bullshit, you bet!”
“Wan gahdam chink spy, you bet!”
“Wan no spy… Wan got sources… Wan listen all time… Not all time talk silly bullshit like submarine man.”
“Wan a damn communist intelligence man… Wan commie spy… Wan major pain-in-the-ass butt-red weasel!”
“You dirty, smell bad submarine man!”
Who knows what Wan was. To us, he was Hop Sing the Button Crusher, married to Fortune Cookie, mother of Piss Ant. You couldn’t help but like the little sawed-off sonuvabitch. He was one hundred percent dependable… Rain, shine, tornado, major flood or catastrophic quake… The Button Crusher and his Second Fleet Spywagon & Laundry Truck was at the pier head.
“Hokay, hokay… You get in line and have pay money ready or no get clothes… I got all day… You got morning quarter in thirty minute… I no care… I call ship name… You say ‘Yo’… I say fie dollah… You say, ‘Here is money’… Me take money, give you laundry… Requin no bring laundry no more until you get back from north run.”
“Northern run!! You better be pullin’ my damn chain you little slant-eyed sonuvabitch!!”