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No Cash, No Class: A Tale of the Restaurant Game

20 Jun

June 20, 2012

My brother and I found ourselves in Adelman’s Deli the other day. You might recall this as the place where I encountered the reclusive North American ROTNAC some time ago. Click here to read my explorer’s journal of that strange expedition.

Adelman’s is one of the few decent delicatessens left in Brooklyn. It is also a novelty as it is a Jewish deli (corned beef, matzoh ball soup) run by Arabs. It got some press about that a few years back. The food is pretty good and they have a tiny but free salad bar. All you need to do is spend $8.50 and the salad bar is on the house. And make no mistake; it is pretty hard not to spend $8.50 there. A sandwich will run you that, at least, plus a drink, side dish, etc. I’m not sure if anyone has not gotten the free salad bar.

Until tonight.

Across from us was a table with three senior citizens. Their average age was somewhere between “cretaceous” and “giant redwood old.” Now I usually applaud that sort of thing. I really do think it is nice when a group of oldsters gas up their Little Rascals and go out on the town, staying out until as late as seven o’clock. But seriously, I really do think it is great when older folks get out together. Too many times they stay inside and don’t get out enough. But this time it went wrong.

Disclaimer: As you read this, bear in mind that I am acutely aware that senior citizens often live on tiny fixed incomes.  I know what that’s like. End of disclaimer.

The three of them were arguing with the waiter about the salad bar. It seems that two of them had spent more than $8.50 but the third had not. They asked if the money they were spending apiece over $8.50 could be applied to the third so he could get salad bar too. Nice try. In fact in my head I could hear my Dad’s voice saying “bravo!” He’d have tried that too. But he’d have known when to give up. These people did not. They argued with the waiter, they argued with the other waiter who came over to help, and they argued with the manager, who I am sure was about to tell the guy to have the salad bar except that the old folks were nasty. They accused the restaurant of being cheap, they accused the manager of being unfair (they never said to whom) and they were just generally mean. Eventually the fighting stopped and all settled down. I don’t know if the third got his salad bar or not because I was soon distracted by the table behind us.

It was a man and a woman, both senior citizens, but I am not sure if they were married or not. I got the impression they were friends, not married. They also did that thing where instead of sitting across from each other they sat side by side, the effect of which was to crush the woman against the wall. The man ordered a pastrami sandwich and ate half. He wanted to take the other half home but he did not like some of the slices of meat. Remember: he had already eaten half without comment but now he opened the sandwich and was scrutinizing each slice. He called over the waiter and told him that he wanted to take the sandwich home but he wanted to “exchange some of the meat.” About five of the slices had to go. One was too thin, one was too fatty, one was overcooked, etc. He laid out every slice of meat on a napkin and was pointing out various defects with his fork. None of them were really defects, they were all fine and edible, they just were not as perfect as the guy would have wanted. I have never seen anyone try to exchange individual slices of meat in a half-eaten sandwich.

The waiter stood there looking confused. This waiter was not involved with the previous table and I am sure he’d get no sympathy from those waiters. Again, I did not see the outcome because I was beginning to laugh and since we had just gotten the check we decided to leave before I burst out in guffaws.

It was so weird.

No, it wasn’t a samurai deli.

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