Sometimes, in the morning, I visit the deli across the street from where I work and order two eggs with cheese. The army of men working behind the counter can’t seem to get my orders right but because I’m not sure where else to go, I continue my patronage.
“I’d like two eggs scrambled with cheese. That’s it. I don’t want any meat. No roll. No carne.”
“Two eggs with cheese on a roll?”
“No. I don’t want a roll. Just the eggs. Scrambled.”
I walk away from the counter and give someone else a turn. From behind the line, I watch the man crack my eggs, beat them in a metal bowl, and dump them out onto the grill.
At this point, I decide that it’s safe to grab water and some soy crisps for later. I do so. I return a few minutes later and wait.
“Egg and cheese on a roll!”
The guy I spoke to earlier is standing before me holding a wrapped sandwich in his hands. He’s holding it above the counter, dangling it in the air. I can see hovering above everyone else’s head.
Now, I know I could take the sandwich and remove the eggs once I get to work. After all, that’s what he does. (He also adds the tainted roll BACK in line with the other waiting buns. I often leave wondering about the cleanliness of the establisment.)
I choose to tell the man about his error.
“I said NO ROLL. I just want the eggs.”
We’re all given choices. And that’s when I decide that what he chooses to do is the wrong choice. Because, on this particular occasion, he chooses to argue with me.
“No. You asked for egg and cheese on a roll.”
He begins to remove the egg and cheese from the bun. He tosses the bun back and sends the container skidding across the counter.
I turn to leave. As I’m waiting in line at another counter to pay, I watch a tall man walk in through the front door, grab a 16-ounce can of beer, and casually move away from the deli. While he’s hurried, he’s not hurried enough. I see him open the can of Miller Hi-Life and take a long pull from it.
At first, I think that I must have imagined this. And then it occurs to me that someone must be filming a movie. I work right next to Grand Central Station, certainly this was a scene in a movie. Surely, this guy didn’t just steal a can of Miller Hi-Life.
The guy just stole a can of beer.
It’s not 9 AM, yet. I find I’m more annoyed with the fact that someone feels the need to drink that early in the morning than I am with the actual crime. For me, the dive is the crime. I’m left wondering what, if anything, I should do.
I begin to reason. The guy behind the counter is constantly screwing up my order and my eggs and he is often rude about it. But the ALL-Asian female workforces up front are usually very sweet. Plus, they’re easy on the eyes. I immediately feel sorry for them because this outsider is getting away with their 16-Ounce beer. What if they are responsible for stolen merchandise? What if it comes out of their pockets? Should I tell the sweet Asian woman about the 9 AM beer thief?
I’m not sure what to do. But I do know this: in the time it has taken me to decide, the guy is long gone. Way to act, Michele.
“Hi. Yeah. I just saw a guy walk in and steal a beer from the ice bin up front. Not that you can chase him down, but you might want to reconsider storing the beer up front like that.”
The woman is confused. She looks hurt and flustered or maybe just confused. She runs out from behind the counter and looks toward the front where the remaining cans of beer have fallen in their comrade’s place.
The woman makes a sound. Alone, she’s powerless. That realization becomes clear by the look on her face. She gets back behind the counter. She gets back in line. She mutters something in another language. I have no idea if it’s directed to me or if she’s merely blowing off steam. We have our money exchange and I’m off.
Today, I went back to the deli to order my eggs. Like choreographed cast members, the same staff is in place. I wait for my turn to order.
More and more people file in. I try to enlarge myself, fluff my feathers so they know that I am first, that I haven’t ordered my eggs yet. Finally, it’s my turn.
“Good morning. I’ll have two eggs scrambled. No roll. Just two eggs in a container. I want cheese and NO meat.”
The guy says something to the other guy in Spanish. I watch them crack my eggs, beat them in a metal bowl, and dump them onto the flattop below. I walk away to retrieve a yogurt for later.
“Here you go ma’am!”
The guy is holding a wrapped sandwich in his hands. It dangles in the air. I take a deep breath.
“I said NO ROLL. I just want the eggs.”
The man in front of me turns around and looks at me. A very masculine woman is standing on his left. They do not know each other. If she had her way, she’d have him vanish. Her only concern is with when she gets to order. She’s visibly agitated.
The guy behind the counter looks annoyed with me, like it’s all my fault they can’t seem to get this right each and every day. Suddenly, I want to scream, “SOMEONE IS STEALING YOUR BEER! SO, HA!” But I don’t.
Instead, I mutter to myself.
“Every day. Every day. I am not sure how else to say it.”
Both the agitated lesbian and the man in front of me turn around and start to laugh. It’s clear that the woman needed to laugh because she is suddenly very pleasant. They both nod in agreement. The Lesbian woman begins to talk to me.
“Next time, order a bun. Really. They’ll get it right if you order the bun.”
I walk to the check-out counter; I do the usual dance with the Asian woman. We exchange monies and deliver pleasantries. I walk toward the ice coolers and nod at the 16-ounce beer cans. I notice the Miller Hi-Life aluminum army has fallen in on themselves once again. Like wounded soldiers, they appear to sigh along with me.