She was young, I’d guess mid-twenties. She had a sleeve of multi-colored tattoos on both arms. She was pretty. She was nice.
She stood behind the New York City deli counter, slicing salami, making sandwiches. She had a line 16 miles long, snaking outward into the frenetic streets of The City So Nice They Named it Twice.
Some of her patrons were very “particular” about their orders. Although where I come from, we would not call these people “particular.” We would call these people “fussy.” But hey. When in Rome.
The girl took it on the chin. She replied to each “particular” customer by smiling and batting her eyes.
I detected a slight drawl in her voice. I wouldn’t have noticed this in any other city. But in New York, you notice drawls.
It was my turn. I ordered the cheapest sandwich available, an item which cost about as much as an average Harvard doctoral semester.
She began making my sandwich. “Where are you from?” she asked.
A look of wistfulness came over her face. “Birmingham,” she
said. “I’m from Birmingham. I was born there.”
“And it just got smaller.”
The man behind me in line was not happy about this casual conversation between myself and our delicatessen professional. He began clearing his throat loudly.
New Yorkers, I have read, do not like idle chit-chat. I read this in an official guidebook. The guidebook stated: “New Yorkers do not like superficial conversation, eye contact, small animals, children, old people, or anyone who talks slow.”
The man in line behind me cleared his throat loudly again. He was sending a clear message.
“Can we speed this up?” the man actually said aloud. Then he made a “let’s get the ball rolling” getsure.
I was horrified. In Birmingham, this man would have already been in the backseat of a Jefferson County Crown Victoria.
The young woman merely smiled. She…