Iʼm on my way to the supermarket. Have to take the train to get there. Get on. Sit down. Only have three stops to get there. After the first stop an old man comes on brandishing a tape player. The type you begged to get for Christmas in 1992 so you could make your own radio shows.
Iʼm in a foul mood. The train starts up again. The man presses play. He begins to sing “What a Wonderful World.” He does a bloody good version. People start smiling at each other across the carriage. This shouldnʼt happen. I consider joining him in song. Get the whole train going. Amazingly the song ends just as the train reaches the next station. He walks off. Job done.
A lady turns to her friend across the train. “He was good.” Her friend nods.
“ Yep, I know him. I saw him on here once seven years ago.”
“You knew him?” The woman with the memory and face of an elephant nods again.
“He wasnʼt any good 7 years ago. But he was good today.”
Lucky me. I witnessed a performance seven years in the making. On the N Train to Union Square.
Steady hand at the tiller
I get off the train and then I have a terrible interaction in Trader Joes, a supermarket, where I was picking up some supplies. Got the food. Down the queue. Then I just did everything wrong.
I was the equivalent of a doddery mentally failing granddad. The line manager. As in the guy who organizes the line. Tells me to go to till 12. I go to 14. Only to be quite rudely told to go to 12 again. I arrive at twelve and hope to play it off with a gag. I go for the humourless and slightly depressing "Numbers are hard". The cashier says "What you say?” So sadly I have to repeat the worst joke ever full in the knowledge it's bloody awful. He replies with the polite:
"I struggle with numbers too". He is lying just to make me feel better. To be honest I donʼt want to be as good at numbers as someone working at a low price supermarket but he is being nice. And to be fair to him he is employed.
"Lucky me. I witnessed a performance seven years in the making. On the N Train to Union Square."
I get my little notes of money out to begin. So I'm ready. This is it. No more mister useless guy. He says "42.20" I give him 43 in cash. He gives me 20 dollars back. He actually said “22.20.” I turn to him and say, sounding like I am an 87 years old who
leaves the gas on at night and stores their reading glasses in the freezer : "I'm getting a lot wrong today". He smiles. He probably thinks there is a van outside waiting to take me home. He hands me the cash. Finally the end of this pointless awful interaction.
Get the change then I can just get out of the supermarket, put it all behind me. But the coins bounce out of my hand and do that circular run around the floor. Like you imagine a headless chicken would. I pick it up. Look him straight in the eye and go "This has been a disaster" and head out.
Talking to a potential friend. I recently had two people over at my house and used the term "It's so nice having people over" as I poured out drinks. I need less loneliness. So I'm chatting to this fella. Decent banter. Weʼve swapped phone numbers, Iʼm in.
Then he takes what I would consider to be a pretty big social risk. He tries a racist joke. Firstly I'm upset cos he thinks Iʼm the sort of guy into this. He must consider me a kindred spirit. He has judged me on my appearance and conversation so far as a
potential bigot. This is not good for a kick off. I've always been a bit of a social chameleon. Going along with most stuff just so I don't rock the boat.
On this occasion I am marooned. I'm in no man land. Do you give up your creed for a friend? I can't do it. All the while this mental process is zipping along the guy continues to stare at me. He wants his response. He wants his "white" pound of flesh. I can't do it.
"Probably best if you don't say that again." He looks at me. Disappointed. I didn't take the racist bait. He wonʼt call.
Iʼm gonna have to leave and come back In January. End of the visa. So just 14 days left till I legally have to leave the country. Must make the most of it. So I go to a place, so Iʼm told, where the best burger in the city is. Itʼs a secret. Hidden in the lobby of the Le Park Meridian Hotel. I walk in with my mate. Big queue. Itʼs a tiny busy place. Loads of framed reviews on the wall detailing its greatness.
Next to the queue there is a family. Dad, Mum and Son. The child is about 10 years old. His dad comes back from the counter with the burger. The child pipes up “If this burger isnʼt great then Iʼm gonna smash all these things off the wall.” His parents, seemingly broken by a decade of this shit look on concerned. He unwraps the burger. Takes a bite. Parents look on. Their eyes willing him to like the burger. He reaches his conclusion. “Good enough.”
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