Guess what I saw today?" I tried to interest M. "This girl was walking some miniature Paris Hilton-esque dog with tiny little shoes on. It looked like a spider with little mittens." M wasn't having any of my brainless banter of visuals from life on the Upper East Side streets.
"I'm hungry. What's for dinner?" he replied as he poked his nose into the nearly empty refrigerator. I had been lax in my wifely duties of replenishing our food supply since we had been traveling so much the last few weeks. He moved around salad dressings and the milk carton(expired), reaching far into the back hoping something of interest would magically appear. "I can make egg white omelets," I said, knowing we were both two egg whites away from turning into a chicken. He scrunched up his nose and went to the pantry cabinet and shook a box of Grape Nuts to see if anything was in it. There wasn't.
Returning to the living room defeated, M reached for the trusty menu folder which I had spent the good part of a day last week organizing by categories; Deli, Sushi, Chinese, Fancy/Good, Drunk/hangover, pizza. "Good work on this," he said pulling out a new menu I had picked up from a new diner. "This is a new one. Let's try this place. I am in the mood for a nice big Greek salad. Want to split an order of fries?" His mood had suddenly turned once the idea of imminent food was on the horizon. "Where did you see this puppy? Were the shoes sneakers or little tiny doggie flip-flops?"
I gave him a post-it note where he scribbled down his order and added my selection to it as well while I dialed the number of the menu. It rang 6 times before someone answered the phone. I read down our list of food items, throwing in an extra order of steamed vegetables too, while the man on the other end of the line said 'hmm mmm' after each item ending the conversation with a terse '30 minutes' before he abruptly hung up the phone. "I wonder if that is a good sign or a bad sign that it took them so long to answer the phone when I called," I said to M who was munching on a bag or airplane pretzels which I had stashed away in the drawer.
"Probably a good sign," he said between crunches. "Means they are busy 'cause everyone else must be ordering. Where is this place again?" I couldn't quite recall if it was on 2nd or 3rd but I knew it was somewhere in the 60s or 7os because I had been walking home from Scoop when I picked up the menu. "Dunno. I grabbed a ton of menus last week when I decided my new pet organizational project was this menu folder."
For 30 hunger-filled minutes we twiddled our thumbs and made Chief do tricks for treats.
At least someone was eating. "Do you want to call and ask where the food is," M said tossing me the phone from across the room. "It's been 38 minutes since you hung up." M knew precisely what time I had called and the clock in his belly was telling him to have me call again and pester the restaurant. "No, you call. I always call. Why do I have to be the hammer and yell at these people. I think the hungrier person should be the one who makes the second call - or, better yet, the person who didn't place the initial order should have to be the one who follows up. That's the new rule." I tossed the phone back across the sofa at him, missing his head my inches.
"Please!!!" he begged, "I have been on the phone all day. Conference calls and phone calls. Come on, please?" He heaved the phone back with a side order of guilt that worked perfectly. I pressed redial and it rang 7 times before the same man answered. In my most congenially voice I asked, "Sir, we placed in order about 45 minutes ago and I am just inquiring on its status. Can you tell me when we should expect it to arrive?" If it hadn't gone out yet, I wanted to make sure it didn't go out with a giant lugger or pile of spit on it. "Ten minutes" he shouted before the phone line went dead.
Finally, the doorman buzzed us and told us food was on the way. By this point, I was famished and M was 3 minutes away from eating a Milkbone covered in chocolate sauce which was the one thing in the fridge whose expiration date had not yet passed. I stood in the hall, door open, M and Chief standing with their heads peering out with money in my hand to make the quickest exchange possible. I heard the elevator open and the sound of ruffling bags coming down the hall and turning in our direction. But what appeared suddenly stifled my hunger:
The delivery man could have easily passed for a homeless vagrant; his shoes were untied with long laces trailing behind him, his shirt stained with a variety of substances and a faint smell of urine and cheap whiskey was undeniable. He had a 5 o'clock shadow on top of full face of dirt and to boot, the zipper on his pants was all the way down and I swear, though not on a stack of Bibles, I think I saw his pony coming out of the gate. Chief backed into the apartment and started grumbling, first low and then louder into a full bark which he only does when he senses danger. M tensed up and protectively stood behind me, arms crossed, Chief's collar in his left hand.
"How much?" I asked, as my appetite basically dissolved.
He looked at the receipt stapled to the brown bag. "$26 bucks," he said, his mouth opening wide enough to give me a less than pleasant view. His teeth were a shade of yellow and brown that reminded me of the colors of the Brady Bunch kitchen, only filthier and less wholesome and more than a few were missing. I handed him $40 and asked for $10 back. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, 3 half-smoked cigarette butts as some ashy color paper fell to the floor. He grunted, mumbled something and then reached into his other jean pocket and pulled out two condoms. I shit you not, he pulled out condoms. Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse than used cigarettes, I had to slap myself silly to remind myself that, in fact, it could get a lot worse!
I am not sure what repulsed me more - the condom, the cigarette butts or the thought of this man using that condom, but my brain was awash in the nastiness and my stomach was in full agreement. "I ain't got no change," he said giving me a toothless smile. "You got anything smaller?" Sure, how bout I take two cigarette butts and that condom as change, you scum sucking dirtbag asshat.
"Just keep it," I said considering the $10 a sunk cost to get this man out of my perimeter. We walked back into the apartment where I promptly threw out the unopened brown bag. I walked over to my menu folder, ripping from the three-ring binder the menu for this restaurant, crumpling it into a ball and throwing into the garbage on top of the food. Without saying a word, I pressed redial again on the phone - eight rings later, the same man answered.
"Hi, yea. We just placed an order and beside the fact that it took an hour to get here, when it arrived, it came delivered by a crackhead." There was silence on the other end of the phone. "I'm not sure if you are part of some government program where you hire the great unwashed to deliver food or if you and Angelina Jolie teamed up to help drug addicts get off the street in some sort of feel good-do good campaign, but here's a newsflash for ya: NO ONE WILL EAT AT YOUR RESTAURANT IF YOUR DELIVERY PEOPLE REMIND THEM OF SUBWAY CARS AT 5AM! Your food should have a smell.....not your delivery people. And also, they should carry change not Trojans."
I slammed down the phone, grabbed my purse and headed to the door. "Let's go out for dinner....some place where there is an open kitchen."