So it’s Saturday morning in New York, and we’re at the First Avenue Coffee Shop, this great little place where you can still grab breakfast for under five bucks, and that includes endless coffee refills and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s been in the neighborhood as long as I have, which is a long time, and I never checked it out till maybe a month ago, shame on me.
Anyway, I’m forking scrambled eggs and home fries into my mouth when I overhear Suzy, the waitress of waitresses who seems to run the joint, talking to another customer over at the counter.
” … and all of a sudden, they don’t want to talk Yankees-Red Sox!” she says.
My writer-in-search-of-material receptors whipping up into the air like I’m some kind of bug, I look across my table at The Wife, who’s quietly snoopier than I am.
“You happen to hear who she means by ‘they’?” I ask.
“Red Sox fans,” she replies, chewing her muffin. There you go — didn’t I just say The Wife was a major snoop? “She was telling the guy that they don’t want to talk Yankees-Red Sox anymore now that the Yanks are in first place.”
I swivel around in my chair to look at Suzy.
“You a Yankee or Red Sox fan?” I ask, dutifully checking The Wife’s facts.
“A Yankee fan!” Suzy says, and eyes me suspiciously. She seems vaguely upset by the mere suggestion that she could be anything else. “You a Yankee fan?”
“I write a column for the YES Web site,” I say.
“Great,” she says. “What’s your name?”
I tell her. She promises that she’ll check me out online, brings the coffee pot over to our table, freshens up our cups, and formally introduces herself.
“We heard you talking … ” I begin.
“Red Sox fans come in here, they catch it from me,” Suzy says before I finish my sentence. “They think they can walk around New York with their caps, I let them have it.”
I look at her. It’s nine o’clock on a weekend morning, and the place is already jumping. People from every cultural background and financial status under the sun are mingling at the counter like they’ve known each other all their lives, like they’re best friends or family at some kind of reunion, with Suzy here being the queen of all things breakfast-wise and master of ceremonies rolled into one.
And then it hits me that the only people she won’t tolerate in this New York melting pot of a coffee shop are Red Sox fans. Perfect.
“Pleased to meet you,” I say, slyly shaking her hand.
Slyly because I know I’ll be doing a whole lot of hanging out at the coffee shop from now on. And that you’ll be hearing plenty about it.
“Did you just say you were going to the Yankee game today?” asks the woman at the table across from us.
This is maybe 10 seconds after Suzy’s headed back around the front counter. We’ve seen the woman here before, reading the New York Times while eating cereal and cantaloupe and stuff between sips of coffee.
“No,” I answer. “I was just mentioning that I write this column about the Yankees … “
“Oh,” the woman says. “You know, my son and his friends bought Yankee tickets from a scalper a couple of weeks ago and they turned out to be counterfeit.”
“Ouch,” I say, shaking my head. “That stinks.”
“They were really looking forward to the game,” she says.
“It was Bat Day.”
“Adding insult to injury,” I say. “Next time maybe he’d better go through StubHub if it’s at the last minute.”
She asks me what StubHub is and I explain.
“The kid grew up in the city,” she says after thanking me for the skinny. “You think he’d know better than to get ripped-off by a scalper.”
“Hey, no shame. I grew up in Brooklyn and got ripped-off lots of times,” I say.
I’m suddenly remembering when I got scammed out of a full week’s minimum-wage record-schlepper’s pay while trying to help some guy who claimed to be a lost Jamaican sailor. And remembering when I was walking toward the F-train subway entrance on 42nd Street at one or two in the morning, and a bunch muggers with knives swarmed me out of nowhere, and I made a break for it and bolted downs into the station with all of them on my heels, and got lucky enough to run smack dab into a cop with a German shepherd at the bottom of the stairs.
I’m remembering those misadventures, and a couple of others too, and secretly thinking that, for every time I got robbed or suckered, at least I never had a lousy ticket scalper make a fool out of me outside Yankee Stadium.
And then it occurs to me that only in New York City can one person feel he’s got something over another person because he was ripped-off in a way that’s less embarrassing, relatively speaking, at least in his own mind.
In Maine, when people talk about getting ripped off, they’re making price comparisons between the local supermarket and Wal-Mart.
“Too bad our game was washout, huh?” says the guy with the corner fruit and vegetable stand.
Done with breakfast, The Wife and I have just passed his stand on the way back to our apartment when I hear that snipped of conversation.
I glance over my shoulder and notice the produce man’s talking to an older guy who’s stopped to check out his goods.
“Yeah,” says his customer. “Ruined my whole night.”
“Well, today’s sunny!” says the fruit man. “No more rain!”
The customer holds his palm out as if to confirm it, then nods his head.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he says. “It’s beautiful.”
“What are you going to do in this beautiful weather?”
The customer gives the fruit man a look that implies he has to be kidding.
“What else?” he says. “Stay home and watch the Yankees on TV.”
Which I’m thinking is about the closest many New Yorkers get to outdoor activity when the Yankees play a day game … and happens to be exactly what I plan on doing on that gorgeous June day.