As far as I know, what happened to me at lunch today has never happened to any person ever. Human beings have been around for, what, 100,000 years? This was so preposterous that I feel confident saying this is the first encounter of its kind. It was so unusual that I want to paint the picture to the best of my ability, so that you can feel like you’re there with me. I stop by a local eatery for lunch, a place I frequent. I’m no “regular”, but it’s one of my go to spots when I don’t feel like cooking. Indulge me for a moment.
It’s close to my apartment, but not too close. How close is it exactly? If I make the walk, I can consider that my physical exertion for the day. At a normal pace, it’s a five minute walk. The close-ish proximity never has me dreading the walk. Fresh air plus a quick walk? Now we’re talking!
The interior? Cute, warm, inviting, casual. You’ve got the long counter along the window that allows for hungry customers to gawk at passersby while they scarf down their food. Whoa! Talk about multitasking! There are a few small tables as well. But let’s be honest, nobody wants to sit at a low table when you can feel like royalty on a stool, feet dangling off the ground, eyes alternating between your food and the cross streets outside. Light music is playing. The sizzle from the grill alerts all of the senses. The fresh smells emanating from said grill reassured me, as a soon-to-be paying customer, that I’ve made the right choice by entering.
The food is good, good enough where I’ve been visiting different sections of their menu as of late. I don’t even have a “go to” order which is a great indication as to what kind of fine establishment we’re working with here. When you can spin the Price Is Right wheel at a restaurant and be happy with whatever selection you land on, that’s a good sign.
It’s fairly priced. Guys and gals, we’re talking about the NYC Metropolitan area. It’s not uncommon to dish out $16 for an unsatisfying salad. You try to convince yourself that a you made the smart choice by electing a salad instead of a cheesesteak for lunch. Beach Szn is mere months away, and you want to be ahead of the curve. In the back of your mind, you know you’re still hungry because your salad stunk. You’re already thinking about crushing a bag of BBQ chips within the hour. You quickly dismiss that because you want to be “responsible” or whatever. But you can’t escape the fact that it’s a lie. We’re all gonna die anyway, right? What was even the point of the salad? What are we talking about? Anyway, I am never unsatisfied with the food and its price point.
The people are friendly. The employees are polite, and they seem to be appreciative of my business whenever I engage in colloquial conversation and typical interpersonal pleasantries. They don’t treat me like a stranger, and they themselves are no strangers to smiles. What more can I ask for?
The gentleman who assisted me today was someone I had never seen before. Hey, shouldn’t be a problem considering the amicable relationship I’ve had with all other staff members. I ask him a question about a menu item. His answer does not suffice. Perhaps he misheard. Hardly problematic as I am confident in what I am about to order despite his insufficient response. The order is made. No miscommunication this time. He punches it in on the POS. He looks up. We lock eyes briefly. I can tell he’s ready to say something. And then it happens…
“That will be nine-zero-six”.
Not “nine OH six”. Not “nine dollars and six cents”. “Nine ZERO six”. What the fuck? Who talks like that? I stood, frozen, in silence and disbelief. Perhaps my ears were playing a trick on me. He couldn’t have just said what I think he said. Could he? I think- oh my god. He did. Maybe he got nervous. Maybe it was his first time manning the register. Maybe it was the first time he’s ever said a price of something out loud. Maybe it was his first time ever speaking to another human being.
I wanted to ask him to clarify what he meant. I wanted to see if he knew what he said because I was taken aback. I wanted to let him know how weird what he said truly was. I didn’t do any of those things. After a 1-2 second process, I handed him my card. I barely bat an eye. Are you kidding? I was not prepared to create an awkward moment between us. Nine zero six was not worth a loogie in my food. Plus the awkwardness was already there. He did that, not me.
I wonder if he’s thought about how bizarre our brief meeting was. I’d like to think he realized shortly after that he spit out some word vomit. “Man I totally blew that. Nine zero six? What the fuck was that?” That’s what I hope. No chance it happened. He’s probably out there yelling out numbers to everyone. Man oh man what if I had a bottle of water too? Would he have said “Eleven zero six”? Holy shit.