Squeaky Wheels


Our Daily Correspondent


Photo: Vladimir Kirakosyan

Yesterday was very rainy and everyone was cranky. I was covertly trying to take shelter under the edge of a stranger’s golf umbrella while I crossed the street, when suddenly there was an outraged blast of honking horns and an explosion of profane shouting from several drivers. We all looked over to the opposite intersection, where a large, elderly man in a sateen Yankees jacket and one of those woven plastic fedoras was making his leisurely way against the light, against traffic, and, in the process, blocking the way of a large truck. He seemed oblivious, or indifferent to the commotion he had caused.

A block later, I was in the supermarket, pushing a basket with a broken wheel through the produce section. Someone bumped into me hard. I turned in irritation, but then saw it was the same oblivious old man in the Yankees jacket and figured it was hardly worth it. He banged into me again, in DAIRY. He was banging into people all over the place. It was late; I had the grim realization that I had come down with a cold. Always dispiriting, in its petty way. 

I got into the elevator to go down to the bulk section, where I planned to buy some dried beans. There was one other person inside: the guy in the Yankees jacket. 

“They’re liars,” he said, before the door had even closed. “Liars. This is the second time they’ve lied to me. About queso fresco,” he said pointedly, when I didn’t ask. Normally I live for this kind of thing, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I stared stonily at the placket of buttons, willing the elevator to hurry.

“It’s that one manager—Jason!” he continued. “I got his name. I’m going to destroy his career. I’m not a person you want to make disgruntled,” he added menacingly. 

Awesome plan, I thought sourly. Good job on life. Nice hat. 

“I’m sure you can find that anywhere,” I said. “They’re probably sold out. If they don’t have it in, it’s not the manager’s fault. It’s the supplier or something.”

The doors were open now but it was taking him a second to shuffle his cart out. He looked kind of like Rumpole, but malevolent.

“It’s a specialty ingredient,” he said. “I know about it because I watch Rachael Ray.”

“Okay, well, good luck,” I said, finally pushing my way out, the little cart squeaking loudly behind me.

“Rachael Ray is the most beautiful woman on television,” he said then. 

I guess it was sad. But, at the end of the day, I was the one who’d remember the conversation.