29 April 2011

A Lady Comes to Columbia Street

There's a wonderful, completely unspecial grocery and deli near where I live. It's owned by a Hispanic family and, being close to the Brooklyn docks and one of the few stores of its kind in the area, is mobbed every morning with working men and day laborers, ordering their hearty breakfasts and lunches to fuel them for the day of hard work to come. The customers and staff have come to know each other well, and they chat and josh around while the sandwiches and coffees are being prepared. As I have discovered they have one of the best egg sandwich deals in the area (egg, cheese and ham for only $2.50), I am often part of this scene.

One day, recently, I observed an interesting, and amusing, clashing of worlds. A young and pretty woman of about 25, in a skirt suit and holding a cell, came in. It was her first time in the deli. I imagine she had just moved into the neighborhood. "Do you do breakfast?" she asked the cook over the meat counter. Yes, he replied. "Do you have chicken bacon?" was her followup.

This comment got my attention. One glance at this place would be enough for any observant citizen to know this is not the sort of fancy, organic, boutique deli to have anything like chicken bacon. It's a Boar's Head joint. Indeed, the counter man said they had no such thing. The young woman said she's just have bacon then, along with egg and cheese—on a croissant.

Again, figurative cars were heard to screech to a halt. Croissant? Do you see any croissants? Do you see anything by kaiser rolls and white bread? Our young lady did not understand the humor of her requests. She was the only one who didn't.

As she waited for her sandwich, the woman busied herself with texting, never looking up. Now, this deli, in the morning, has many orders going. When a sandwich arrives at the cashier wrapped in white butcher paper, you have no idea if it's yours or another person's. You have to ask or wait for the cashier to announce what sandwich it is. And your order can take from five to ten minutes to arrive. I and the woman were surrounded by perhaps a half dozen other men, men in t-shirts bearing the names of unions, men in workshirts that had their names stitched over the pocket, patient men. One minute after she ordered, a sandwich arrived on the counter. The woman strode up immediately and seized it, and prepared to pay.

Needless to say, it was not her sandwich. It was the sandwich of one of the six men who had ordered before her. Imagine that. (She didn't.) The woman was surprised, and stepped back.

Sometimes, it takes so little for me to want to smack someone.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alternate title for this post : "Why I Hate BKLYN"

Brooks of Sheffield said...

But I don't hate Brooklyn. I don't get it.

bigmissfrenchie said...

That is SO not a Brooklyn thing...people like that woman exist everywhere. In midtown where I work, I frequent a deli much like the one described; good food, but very basic; sandwiches, burgers and the like. But there are people who are so oblivious and demanding that you would think that they were at Per Se (and paying their prices). And them they want to pay for everything with credit cards and get angry when there's a $10 minimum for credit card purchases. Maybe if they got off their phones for 2 minutes, they would notice that there are other people in the world!

Ken Mac said...

sounds like she was very nervous

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Ken, she was cool as a cucumber and oblivious to all and sundry. If she were nervous, my heart would have gone out to her. I know how even a deli in a strange neighborhood can be nervous-making.

Prof. Wagstaff said...

I guess I don't understand the outrage.

She sounds like a newcomer to the city or neighborhood who hasn't gotten the hang of the place yet. Are you saying that you never did any number of equally awkward things when you rolled off the turnip wagon from wherever you're from? Heavens no, I'm sure you were much more sophisticated and street smart.

Do you feel some sort of kinship with these working-class fellows because you share a desire for the same kinds of artery-clogging breakfast foods? Rest assured that they see you for the dilettante that you are. Frankly, you have nothing in common with them, and your glorification of them smacks of condescension.

Oh, and since you apparently didn't get the memo, OJ Simpson, hitting women is no laughing matter.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Prof. Wagstaff, you get an F for literal-mindedness.

Pierrot said...

I used to live in that neighborhood and know the grocery store/deli well.....

GREAT POST!!!!!