Last week my friend Jennifer and I had plans to meet near me for brunch. I live in a neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) that is both a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), is home to many orthodox Jews, and also has possibly the highest concentration of unspeakably hip 20somethings on the entire Eastern seaboard. There are many ramifications to this dynamic, one of which is that brunch can be tricky.
On the one hand, you have lots of elderly people who wouldn’t dream of spending $12 on a cocktail or and for whom “fusion” cuisine means verboten milk and meat at the same meal. Brunch is as alien to their routine as pedicures or Pilates.Â On the other hand, you have young people, probably subsidized by their parents, with whom you might share culinary tastes but who stay out all night getting full sleeve tattoos and drinking and so don’t crack their eyes before noon. Restaurants other than the odd greasy spoon do not open until after 11.
All this means is that a Formerly with children, who is up and around early, has few dining options. I never remember this, and make plans to meet Jen at 9:30. She and I grab a coffee and wander around the shuttered neighborhood, looking at groovy clothes we can no longer wear through darkened shop windows, all the while getting ravenous. Finally, at 11, our brunch destination opens its doors.
At this point, I feel like a wolverine. I could gnaw my own arm off. I am a total bitch with low blood sugar–a condition that has gotten much dramatic in the last two years since I turned 40. The kids managing and setting up the place are moving as if someone instructed them not to exert themselves in any way, tossing their hair back in laughter and chatting idly while Jen and I wait to be seated. I am about to explode.
All of a sudden, while we’re waiting, I feel a hail of paint chips and dirt land in my hair and on my shoulders. “Jesus!” I yell. “Something’s falling on me!” Jen, too, is squinting upward and looking around, shocked. “What the fuck?” she says. We stare at one another in disbelief. Another party is waiting. They are in their 20s. They barely notice the chunks of debris and are absentmindedly brushing the stuff off their toned biceps, not even pausing in their conversation.
As if it were an afterthought, the (very young) manager, dressed oh-so-ironically like a junior ad exec out of Mad Men, comes to seat us. Jen and I are still picking crap out of our hair and wiping the paste of dirt and sunscreen offÂ our arms (the sun, if you haven’t heard, causes wrinkles, skin damage, and oh yeah, CANCER!). “What was that? Like, asbestos?” I asked, crossly. Did I mention I was hungry? “Oh, we just turned on the air conditioner,” he answered, not even a hint of “oops” in his voice.
I have not felt so Formerly since the time three years ago when the kid at Modell’s told me they didn’t have exercise bras for me, that I might have to shop at “some kind of special store.” (Not even true! I can totally wear your standard Champion uniboob sports bra. I so do not need the underwire contraption at this point.) Not only was I in fact somewhat concerned as to what was in the stuff that fell from the ceiling (the restaurant is housed in a market that was built back when building materials were even more potentially lethal than they are now) but I felt like I was entitled to an apology.
That word: entitled. I never felt entitled to anything when I was younger. My expectations were so low (“You need two weeks to visit your ex girlfriend in Connecticut to decide between her and me? Um, OK!”) that something like being covered with dirt with nary a sorry and a free drink on the way to eat wouldn’t have phased me. In a way, that’s not such a bad thing. If you don’t feel entitled to something, you can’t be pissed off that you don’t get it.
Like I was when we sat down to brunch. But I was also starving, and the food was excellent, so we shut up and ate. Once I was calmer and sated, I thought about mentioning the air conditioning thing again to the manager, but then let it go. The fact that he didn’t understand instinctively that filth falling from the ceiling might be unappetizing meant that my explaining it to him would only make me the crank. In the end, that restaurant is simply another one on my list that’s not fit for Formerlies, along with the one up the street with the fantastic fish fry, but too-loud music.
Luckily, this is New York City. There are lots of choices, and places everyone can get a nosh. Perhaps the kosher place over on East Broadway?