Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grumpy Old Man

I went out this morning in search of something good to eat. I was already in a bit of a dour mood after noticing a glaring typo in the New York Times; the eighth word of the most prominent article, front page, upper left hand corner, was missing several important letters. If it happens in such an obvious place in a paper like the New York Times, with who-knows-how-many-eyes reading it before it goes to print, what does that say about where our standards are going? Does it matter that the word surprisingly was spelled surpringly, even though we can all figure out what the intended meaning was? You know; the whole "a rose by any other name" thing. To quote a reluctant William Safire, the late writer and authority on language, most notably for his On Language column in the Sunday magazine of the newspaper in question, “At a certain point, what people mean when they use a word becomes its meaning."


So, anyway, I had a supring moment of mood redemption this morning. Again, I was gloomy, which was amplified by my culinary equivalent of the tossing and turning of a privileged, bratty child: I couldn't seem to find something to eat in my neighborhood. I wanted something other than my usual cheesy eggy salt bomb; I just wanted to sit in peace and trudge, in the day's curmudgeonly fashion, through my New York Times, and drink some coffee and eat a bagel. But the waitress I can't stand was at the one place up here where I can do that at a table-service place (she, in all her 22 years, finds it necessary to call people "hon", and "sugar", and "sweetie"; to me, the charm of that is lost unless the speaker has several more grizzled miles under her life belt; it also doesn't help to sit at a table without silverware for 5 minutes after food has arrived, or to be misremembered as to whose bill is whose in a place with 2 occupied tables), so naturally, I moved my ornery self on, never to find that combination of good coffee and tasty bagel and table in which to spread out the paper and read.

It was in my gloom, then, that I came across a shady looking figure smoking a dirty cigarette on the sidewalk in front of me. I made a move to get around him, when I realized it was my buddy. We exchanged greetings; without knowing my "predicament", he pulled a bagel out of a paper bag he was holding. It was laden with cream cheese and cucumber. "Come up to the roasterie and sit down for a minute," he said. I did. He poured me some of his own coffee, surely roasted within the week; we sat at a table, I ate the bagel, we read the paper, we drank coffee, we talked; someone in the roasterie came over and told a fully-in-character story/joke. I explained the situation I was dealing with before running into my friend. His reply: "Sometimes, things work out."

Indeed they do.