7:04AM

It happened. It already happened. 2-days back. Already I got a phone call.

“Max’s Deli,” I answered the phone.

“I need to talk to someone who understands enough to answer my question.”

“I understand enough,” I replied. “Not more than enough. But enough.”

“My husband is sick, very sick,” she said.

It was over. Already I knew it was over, the negotiation was hers for the taking. There was going to be no wiggle room. She was going to get whatever she wanted.

“My husband is sick, very sick. Last night, the girl who works for us picked up a quart of soup from your restaurant. I was at the hospital with my husband. The girl left the soup sitting on the counter. I was with my husband at the hospital all night. So the soup was sitting on the counter for 7-hours. Is it safe to eat?”

I didn’t have to think. I wanted to think. But I knew better.

“Your husband is very sick,” I said. “Why take a chance? You don’t want to take a chance. I can tell. Who would? You said 7-hours.”

“7-hours.”

“Come in anytime it’s convenient. Ask for me by name, Gregor. I’ll give you fresh soup, any soup you want, on me. It’s the least I can do. Hope your husband is feeling better.”

“Thank you,” she teared-up.

Granted, I don’t know for sure if she teared-up, since it was a phone call and I couldn’t see her face. But her voice broke, in just the right way, to paint the picture.

“Thank you very much,” she hung up.

It begs the question: who does that, who calls a restaurant, pushing aside numbers, pushing aside facts, using guilt and shame and tone of voice to push an agenda?

It begs the answer: a brat, a spoiled brat, taking her cue from the soon-to-be minority leader of congress, Eric Cantor.

We’re a nation of brats. We’re a nation of spoiled brats. We’re a nation of invalids. We’re a nation of emotional invalids. No one is responsible. No one can be bothered. Certainly no one can be bothered to take the meaningful lesson from their failures.

No one.

Everyone is calling around, to see what they can get.

Everyone is looking for a sneaky angle, to see what they can get.

Everyone is looking for a cockamamie loophole, to see what they can get.

Everyone else is to blame for spending the surplus, waging war, waging two simultaneous wars, fuding two simultaneous wars with tax cuts.

Everyone else is to blame for bailing out criminal bankers with no preconditions in the bailout for the release of funds being tied to admitting guilt, divulging facts and facing consequences, real consequences, under the law, the full measure of the law, for destabilizing the world financial markets, vaporizing trust and reducing decency to little more than a genetic flaw.

Everyone else is to blame.

But not me.

Get real. Get a grip. Everyone else is to blame.

But not me.

Grow up. Get with it. Everyone else is to blame.

But not me.

Repeat after me. “But not me.” Repeat after me. “But not me.”

Amazing how easily it rolls off the tongue.

She will ask for me by name, Gregor. I will give her soup, whatever soup she wants. I will smile. I will ask about her husband. I will lean forward. I will clasp my hands. I will nod my head. I will scrunch my brow.

I will tear-up.

She will tear-up.

She will take the soup. She will thank me. She will take the soup. She will walk out the door, cross the parking lot, get in her Lexus RX 350, put the soup on the passenger seat of her Lexus RX 350, drive away, with the soup, of course, having paid nothing, of course.

Her husband matters. I’m supposed to understand how much, how very much, her husband, her sick husband, matters.

I do.

I understand.

I really do.

Believe me.

I do.

My soup doesn’t matter. My food costs to make the soup doesn’t matter. My labor costs to prepare the soup doesn’t matter.

The plastic bag, with the twisty thing at the top, in the paper bag, with the convenient paper handles, all keeping the soup from spilling on the passenger seat of her Lexus RX 350, doesn’t matter.

The plastic spoon doesn’t matter. The paper napkin doesn’t matter. The second paper napkin doesn’t matter.

The employee who made the soup doesn’t matter. The employee who wrapped the soup in plastic doesn’t matter.

The payroll to pay the employees doesn’t matter.

My broken deli case, which is going to cost me a week’s worth of freedom, doesn’t matter.

My plumbing, which needs to be routed, doesn’t matter. The plumber, who needs to be paid, for my plumbing, which needs to be routed, doesn’t matter.

The ability to flush shit, and pretend the water in the toilet is sparkly clean, forever sparkly clean, and not full of shit, like her, like me, like the rest of us, doesn’t matter.

Who are we? When did we get this gone?

What happened? When did we get this gone?

Is this real? Is this real life? When did we get this gone?

The question is still begging: who leaves the fucking soup sitting out on the fucking counter for 7-fucking-hours and then picks up the fucking phone with the expectation of getting something for nothing instead of pouring the fucking soup down the fucking drain?

Who? Seriously. Who?

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18 Responses to 7:04AM

  1. Andy says:

    I went to Max’s last Tuesday because I knew you were out of the country and wanted to eat my meal without talking politics. I had a customer nearby and stopped afterward for dinner. I ordered a full Turkey Pastrami sandwich with cheese and mustard. They didn’t put cheese on the sandwich, I tried to flag down the waitress ten times and said fuck it and asked the cook to put cheese on my sandwich. I had the Chicken Noodle soup too. I went to the deli counter and ordered a dozen bagels and bought an apple coffee cake thing. There was a cigar store next door where I bought a few overpriced sticks from a Puerto Rican and then it was off to Half Priced books. I asked if Blo-Blo does any cooking and they said he manages the back but doesn’t cook. Is that true? The Challah bread was good. There was also an Israeli book near the checkout counter.

    • Gregor says:

      The Israeli Book is written by the rabbi of my Grandpa Bernie. We sell it as a courtesy to his memory.

      Thanks for dropping by. If you ever happen to drop by when I’m around, I promise not to bring up politics. And buy you a cigar.

      I pretty much never talk politics face-to-face, not anymore. I’m just not in the mood. I get it out here. In my personal life, which is my face-to-face life, I don’t have it in me, not anymore.

      When we got back in the states, our cab driver was listening to WCPT. He kept trying to engage me in a political conversation. I tried. I really tried. But I just didn’t like the way it felt, even though the guy was clearly on “my side.”

      These days, I don’t feel like I have a side. Not anymore. These days, I feel pretty much alone in the world, which is fine by me. I like being alone in the world.

      My writing is about taking the flimsiest of connection and making the leap to connect the thing in the world with the thing in my life. The flimsier the better.

      In my life, it’s about getting along, staying away from conflict and buying cigars for friends who are passing through.

      L’Chaim!

  2. vince says:

    What kind of a moron puts cheese on a Pastrami sandwich?

  3. vince says:

    The kind of moron that orders a kid’s meal at McDonalds. A child.

    • Gregor says:

      I don’t know, V. Turkey Pastrami & Cheese. Why not? Who am I to judge? Afterall, I like a sprinkle of regret on top of my ambition.

      ;-)

  4. Steven says:

    if she has enough money to pay someone to get soup for her she really should not be concerned about getting a free soup..

    Do you think her husband was really sick?

    • Gregor says:

      The truth is, I don’t know what the truth is, Steven. All I can do is trade in my dignity for peace of mind. It’s not a fair trade. But we live in a time where fairness is hoax.

  5. vince says:

    Ok. Being inspired by Gregor’s blog, I have a confession. I could care less about the cheese on the Pastrami. It is a Jewish Deli sin, that is for sure, but Moron Andy isn’t Jewish and he’s not from Deli. And more confessing I must do.

    I like to antagonize Andy, not because he is a moron, as there is a world filled with morons out there whom I never bother with. Andy is a special case. He believes he is right, no matter what. For those about to rock, I salute you.

    So, picking on a moron who thinks he is the smartest, most rightest guy on the blog, is easy and fun; too easy and too much fun. I am guilty. Guilty of being just like that sad old lady in Gregor’s story. She took advantage and got free soup. I take advantage of a moron and get cheap laughs. I am not doing enough to earn the laughs the hard way. Picking on Andy is easy fodder; any idiot is smarter that Andy and picking on him is just plain wrong. Thank you Gregor for helping me see how wrong I have been.

    • Gregor says:

      I like cheap laughs. I love cheap laughs. What have I done wrong? To make you right your wrong ways. I like your wrong ways. I love your wrong ways. The dysfunctional relationship between you and Andy is supposed to be dysfunctional, since this is a blog, not life, and everything here is forever 8th grade.

      For Those Who Fill The Crock, We Salute You.

  6. Claudia says:

    When I met you, you said that you do not believe in God. You said you believe in kindness .
    Why then can’t you be kind to this woman? Why is she a br
    at. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness!
    Let’s assume for a moment that she is filthy rich, does that make her less human?
    Did you ever stop to think that her calling over the soup , had nothing to do with the soup ? But she probably at that moment just needed to feel kindness. She wanted to feel comforted . It is apparent that she is overwhelmed. You talk about brats but sometimes you come accross as selfish and bratty yourself a with a pinch of guilt.

    • Gregor says:

      Yes, that’s an accurate assessment of my writing voice: selfish and bratty with a pinch of guilt.

      I gave her everything she wanted. I listened. I took in her situation. And made her happy, as per the negotiation.

      But I don’t come here to be kind, not always. I come here to unload. Especially in a week where the members of congress were acting like they had zero responsibility for the mess they created for themselves, I used the phone call as a flimsy leap to show my frustration.

      Win some, lose some, Claudia. But I’m not looking to win. As for the truth of the situation, I’m not her shrink. I’m not her mediator. I’m not even her friend. I’m a business owner, in a world where everyone thinks my food is prepared by Oompa Loompas, who need no pay, who live on singing, making magic food from the chocolate river.

      Have you ever struggled with making payroll, Claudia? It’s rough, beyond rough, in the best possible way. Let me change the wording from rough to challenging. That’s better.

      I can see things from the caller’s point of view. But all too often, I find myself in a world where no one stops to see things from the point of view of a small business owner, who’s proud to pay taxes, proud to create stability for my employees, but also keenly aware of the hustle of scammers using “the customer is always right” as an angle to get something for nothing.

      Mostly, and especially this week, that attitude was clearly on display for the Government Shutdown and potential Default.

      If the flimsy leap was too flimsy for you, I apologize. Personally, I can only speak for myself when I say this: I would never call a business looking for empathy in a week when I was overwhelmed by personal tragedy. It’s not the context for empathy. A bottomless cup of coffee, yes. A little schmoozing, yes. Empathy, no.

      That’s for loved ones. Empathy used at the beginning of a negotiation, in the world of business, is similar to crying at the beginning of a fight with a lover, an unfair tactic best left to teenagers.

      Thanks for sharing you point of view, Claudia. Truth be told, I almost didn’t post this blog for exactly the reasons you described. But then I figured there must be people out there who were just as ticked-off. But after I posted, I slept restlessly. And it wasn’t jetlag, as much as I’d like to pretend it was jetlag.

      :-)

      • Claudia says:

        Greg,
        I come from a different world than yours. In my world, I had never had anything given to me. The little that I have is because I bust my ass. Believe me I have little compared to others my age. No, I do not know what it is to struggle to make payroll. This is what I know; I know how it feels to be poor. I know how it feels to have people see you less than because of the color of your skin, or because you have an accent, or because you come from nothing. Now that Greg, is rough more than rough, actually sad and devastating.
        In my experience people who come from money never understand empathy, kindness, or struggle both emotional struggle as economic struggle. They are quick to judge and call it a handout. It is like what the republicans do, Right? They think of themselves and could care less for the less fortunate. They focus on their losses and not what others can gain. They feel that everyone should be self sufficient and not ask Congress to pass laws to assist them. They had a hissy fit about healthcare, yet again believing in self sufficiency. Everyone’s self sufficiency is different. One day we are up the next day we are down. Life always gets in the way and we never know what is around the corner.
        You are a Mensch! I like you and respect you for it which by the way is a compliment coming from me.
        Like the saying goes: “Caras vemos corazones no sabemos.” Just my humble opinión!

        • Gregor says:

          Opinions, by their very nature, seeking expression, aren’t humble. Opinions, especially those voiced in the comment section of a blog, pack a wallop.

          I get-off on the wallop. I treat all comments like a comedian using the room to see how the joke lands.

          I get-off on the wallop. It thickens my skin, tightens my game, exposes my blind spots.

          A long time ago, I figured out “constructive criticism” was a lie, little more than soothing words used to anesthetize the sting.

          One of the most important things I learned from my dad was this: never count someone else’s money.

          He was raised in the Bronx, the son of immigrants, fresh off the boat from Italy.

          I never heard him complain about being raised in poverty. I never heard him complain about the piss-poor treatment of his mother, since she could barely speak the language. I never heard him complain.

          His mother was his hero. She was a brilliant woman who was totally uneducated. My dad likes to say his mother had “larceny in her heart.”

          He always beams with pride when he says this. I don’t know what he takes it to mean, since that’s for him to know. But I take it to mean that nothing was going to hold her back, or hold her children back, least of all the struggles of poverty and the piss-poor treatment of people who can’t be bothered to take another look, and sympathize.

          Gracias, por todos de sus palabras, Claudia.

          • Claudia says:

            De nada! I’m not complaining.. I’m the strongest person I know because of my up bringing. What I’m saying is that kindness goes a long way. Yes, you should not count other people’s money. But helping others or being kind does not cost money.
            We should not be quick to think that everyone who might need help at one point or another in their life is out to “use” us. When I mediate I’m surrounded by other mediators who do not share my upbringing and I can see the disconnect they have with people they can relate to and are quick to make judgments. I have come a long way baby, but I can relate. I feel that I have that advantage. I sometimes listen to my child speak and it scares me that maybe he has become entitled, I always make sure he knows that he should consider himself lucky.
            By the way, I have learn a lot of wonderful words just by reading your blog. I love words and learning. Thanks for allowing me to express myself.

    • Steven says:

      I think it’s b\c if you’ve lived any amount of time in places like Higland Park, Boca Raton, South Shore Long Island, The Probability is about 90 percent she was trying to get over on Greg.And really most of our perceptions is based on our experience and probabilty..

  7. Andy says:

    I prefer pepper jack cheese and turkey pastrami on white bread. Swindler you’re too easy to pick on. Honestly, I’ve stopped because I feel bad for you. And please, stop your constant bragging about your wealth (ill gotten, of course). It’s smelling up the blog.

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