So I was in my market, the original Fairway on the Upper West Side, patiently waiting my turn at the deli counter. My number, 83, is called by a deli worker; a woman that’s so short she might have been a circus midget in her previous job or a previous life, but I would never hold lack of height against anyone. Hey, I’m short, too. I tell her I would like one third of a pound of the roast pork loin.
She doesn’t know what that is.
I can see it but it’s on the far side of the glass cases. It’s the weekend so the deli counter is a mob scene. In addition, I’m standing near a meticulously made-up wisp of an elderly woman swimming in a giant fur coat that some guy probably gave her in 1950 when she was a knockout. My buddy, Coco, who is rather petite and a knockout 2011-style could be this person in sixty years.
This elderly woman also has a shopping cart blocking the entire lane. It holds a single head of lettuce. As I try to maneuver around her, her cart and a crowd of fellow shoppers, to point out the pork loin to the clerk, the elderly lady starts moving her cart at a snail’s pace blocking me further. I make an effort to get out of her way.
Meanwhile, Angry Man, a guy about my age – over forty and under death — and coincidentally the winner of the Paulie Walnuts You’re Gonna Die and I Mean You award, won’t move an inch to let the old lady pass. Now I have to move around him, her, and her shopping cart to show my pint-sized clueless clerk what’s the roast pork loin. As I’m making my way around these three obstacles, she, equipped with half the strength of a newborn hamster, brushes him from behind with her cart. This slight contact packs as much power as an infant’s fart.
When I get to the side of the counter where I can finally point out the roast pork loin to my baffled clerk who’s so short I cannot even see the top of her head behind the glass case so I’m not even sure she’s standing there, Angry Man starts shouting threats. It takes me a while to realize that he’s directing his tirade at me, prompting me to ask:
Angry Man (screaming): You shoved me! Now it’s my turn to shove you and believe me, you’re not gonna like it!
He steps towards me ready to commit assault. I step back.
Me (incredulous): Huh? Why do you want to shove me?
Angry Man (insistent): You know what you did! You’re rude! You shoved me!
I know that there’s no point telling him that it was Miss Subway 1942 that was the culprit since she is also half-blind, long gone and he wouldn’t step aside to let her pass. I decide to just pretend that I’m guilty of the offense to placate him.
Me: I’m sorry, Sir, I wasn’t aware that I shoved you, but since I did, I apologize.
Angry Man (obsessed): You shoved me!
Me: Look at me, I’m tiny, I would certainly never intentionally shove anyone, much less a guy your size.
He’s at least a foot taller than me and 75 pounds heavier. That frazzles him, so he pipes down. Then, out of the blue, Miss Buttinsky, just the type that Coco would call – but not in these exact words, a “vagina-bag” standing next to Angry Man — and they weren’t together , volunteers her two cents:
Miss Buttinsky: You shoved him and you know it! You can’t get out of this by acting innocent now!
I instantly think:
Me (thinking): Who the [sexual intercourse] are you?
Miss Buttinsky clearly wants to see blood and preferably, mine. Her spouting off reinvigorates Angry Man.
Meanwhile my miniature clerk is now also yelling at me wanting to know if she’s holding the right deli meat. I say:
Me: Yes, one third of a pound please.
Angry Man is screaming at me again, the same nonsense about me being rude:
Angry Man: I’m gonna make a fist and make you pay!
Me (thinking): Pay for a blow job and relax!
Me: That’s not necessary to threaten to assault me. I’ve apologized. It certainly wasn’t intentional. Look around, this store is crowded.
I gesture around us at the mass of humanity and I stifle the need to murmur a scatological term meaning excrement knowing full well that I’m surrounded by enemies I never knew I had.
Angry Man again defuses.
Miss Buttinsky (self-righteous even though she did not see anything that happened involving either the now long gone elderly lady or me): You should have said ‘excuse me’ to him!
I suddenly regret my life-long loathing of the NRA. If I owned a pistol, I easily could have whipped her on the spot. I choose to say nothing further and continue to completely ignore her. Angry Man starts whining about me to another customer. The tiniest clerk on the planet then gives me one quarter of a pound of deli meat even though I repeatedly requested a third. I just take it and split feeling lucky to be alive and less mentally ill than my fellow customers. I head over to the bakery hoping that Santa gifts my deli-peers anger management courses as stocking stuffers.
Since I’m on a downhill slide, I again encounter that elderly lady, who I have now decided is my own personal jinx. In a plastic bag, I put both a sandwich roll and a sour dough roll, but I am oblivious to the bag being defective. It has a hole. My sour dough roll slips through and falls on the floor, but I don’t notice this. I feel lucky that Miss Buttinsky and Angry Man did not witness this. Surely, she would have tried to have me arrested for vandalizing the store and if this case would come to trial, both would vote in favor of execution.
I return home and hide beneath my bed for the remainder of the day.