Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Here’s what happened in my local yesterday. At 11:15 or so, a man, in his forties, came in with his mother. “Do you want coffee?” the man asks and, as he does, his cell phone rings, loudly. “Hello? Yes. Look, we’ve got a closing in the hour. If this storm comes, I can’t make it this afternoon. I’m going to have to call you back.”

They were a beefy pair, friendly, very stressed, and loud. Soon enough, both were on and off cell phones; the son was in and out the door, loudly negotiating the final details on the closing of this real estate deal. The mother, threatening to close all her accounts with her brokerage, got even a little louder and the son turned to me, “Sorry about this.”

In came two ditzy bohemian college girls, grungy, and hung-over, with a suitcase and carry on bag. As they dithered over what to order, they began debating whether or not it was worth it for the sweet-faced one to change her flight. Mom chimes in, “Where are you going, hon? I’m not being nosy. I’m in the airline business and I have information.” From behind the counter: “she’s being nosy.”

The two girls quickly start in with a story, sweetface dominating, about whether or not it was possible to change her destination city of Portland, Oregon. “Why do you want to change, honey?” It turns out, they had met a couple of really cool Australian guys the night before who had invited them to lunch today at Peter Luger’s steakhouse. “It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The Goth friend is feeling a bit skeptical, “Don’t you have to, like, call months in advance to go there?” Sweetface is undeterred, “They had a reservation.” “And they made it for four because they just knew they were going to meet you two last night?” asks Mom, hand on hip, eyebrow cocked. “It’s for six. They’re, like, millionaires, and it was really interesting to talk to them because they were explaining how, in Australia, you don’t have to go to college…”

“WHEN DID THEY CHANGE THE RULES IN AUSTRALIA?” asks Mom. “Well…I mean…” “Don’t argue,” says the son, looking down and shaking his head, “don’t argue. You won’t win. Don’t argue. Mom, we gotta go.” He goes out for a cigarette.

The girls’ pay for their breakfast burritos and get ready to go. “What time is it?” Noon. “What time is your flight?” One-thirty, out of LaGuardia. Mom throws up her hands, “you’re not going to make it, hon,” and leaves. The Goth girl admits she doesn’t really know where LaGuardia is. “I’m going to hit you!” says sweetface, grabbing her burrito, her suitcase and all three other purse-type items.

The Goth friend gets directions—from downtown Jersey City, across Manhattan, and into Queens to LaGuardia airport—from the café guy and, slightly shaky and near tears, sets out the door to face her friend who is sure to miss a flight to the West Coast just hours before a snow storm.

“Did you get that for your novel?” asked the café guy when they’d gone. I did.

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