Friday, June 23, 2006

My New York City

First time I was on my own in New York City, I was 15. I was there on a class field trip to see a play. A matinee. We had a few hours before the show to wander about and get some lunch, both of which I did, the first part, the wandering about, in the pouring rain. I wasn't wearing a raincoat and I didn't have an umbrella and I didn't much care. I was 15. I'd been planning to grab a hot dog from a vendor in front of some landmark like the New York Public Library or Grand Central Station. The rain put the kaibosh on that plan. So I didn't know where to go for lunch, all I knew is that I didn't want to go to McDonalds. I wanted to eat lunch in a real New York City kind of place. I found a little diner, went in, and sat down at the counter, dripping wet, and trying to read the menu while wiping the water out of my eyes with my sleeve.

A waitress peered at me from the far end of the counter. She didn't look glad to see me. But she moved down to wait on me.

She was middle-aged. To my 15 year old eyes she looked grandmother age, which means she could have been as young as 40. She was solidly built, with heavy, muscular arms, and big fists that she put on her hips as she stood there, frowning hard at me. I began to worry she was about to tell me that I wasn't allowed in there for some reason.

She frowned at me for what seemed a very long time and then she reached under the counter, came up with a clean white rag and slowly, very gently, wiped the water from my eyes and from my forehead and then smoothed back my wet hair and gave it a little tousling to dry it a bit and smoothed it down again. When she decided I was dry enough and presentable, she put away the rag, and took out her pad and pencil.

"Whatcha havin', dear?" she said. She never stopped frowning. But her eyes were laughing.


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