“Sit down, right there,” the mother directed her son and daughter, likely ages 8 and 10. They were clearly out-of-towners.
“And don’t talk to anyone, ANYONE,” she almost scolded them.
The kids scurried off to a nearby table, while Tourist Mom stood in front of me trying to figure out what to order. The cashier waited patiently for her.
This particular carryout plays host to lots of tourists, and it always seems like the tourists forget how to order from this very familiar menu, simply because they are nowhere near their hometown.
Normally, I allow the tourists some slack, being strangers in a strange land and all that. I know they don’t know the peculiar, local rule about stand right, walk left on the subway escalators, and I always smile when I say, “Excuse me” to get around them. Plus, I don’t want to startle them and send them hurtling down the moving stairs.
Oh, sure, I know the tourists don’t intend to block sidewalks by clustering themselves in tight knots, gawking at landmarks I walk past everyday. It’s all new to them, right? I usually manage to ease my way through the throngs, reminding myself about the tourist contribution to the city’s tax base.
At least, that’s what the nice Restaurant Gal does, the smart Restaurant Gal who doesn’t drink too much wine while out with friends the night before.
Today, however, a very surly Restaurant Gal was in no mood for dawdling tourists because she needed–was desperate for–greasy carbs with a vitamin C chaser before she could think about facing work. The Restaurant Gal suffering from a double hash-brown hangover wanted to shove this tourist’s sorry, fanny-packed self the hell out of her way.
Tourist Mom ordered, finally. I ordered immediately after her.
Moments later, my order came up first–because there is a God.
Tourist Mom thought it was hers, however.
“That can’t be yours,” she said, reaching for my bag. “I was ahead of you. Where’s the rest of my order?” she asked the cashier.
“No, sorry, it’s hers,” said the cashier, pulling the bag away from the Tourist Mom and gesturing toward me.
“It can’t be hers. I ordered first!” said Tourist Mom, reaching over the counter for my bag.
And now a murder was about to be committed.
“No, no. Yours is coming. This is hers–hers,” said the cashier again, this time thrusting the bag into my hands.
Tourist Mom turned and glared at me. Hey, not my fault, I glared back. Now, move it, so I can go sit by myself and scarf down my pathetic breakfast, I glared some more.
She moved, then, because I am pretty sure my look was killing her.
I walked past her to find a seat, where I could take five to eat fast and let the healing begin.
As I sat down two tables over from Tourist Mom’s kids, I heard her shout across to them, “Don’t you talk to that lady! Not a word!”
Two pairs of saucer-shaped eyes stared at me. So did the half dozen people in line, for just a second.
I pulled a hash brown out of the bag and took a bite. The kids stared some more.
I sipped some of my juice. Here’s looking’ at you, kids.
I took another bite of the hash brown, and still they stared.
Oh, for God’s sake.
I ate the rest of the hash brown in two bites and closed the bag around the second one. I shrugged on my jacket, wrapped my scarf around my neck, slung my back pack over my shoulder, grabbed my orange juice, and walked out.
The kids kept staring at me, but they minded their mom. They never said a word.
Neither did I.