By Carter B. Horsley
I like women. I really do.
Some of them are not perfect, however.
They dawdle when getting their change back,
fumbling in their huge purses, trying to wedge their way past
their humongous Filos to get to their bulging wallets. And when
they tucked their change away some of them then put down their
coats and parcels on the crowded counter to adjust themselves
and then casually gather it all up, never once glancing at the
glares along the line!
It's infuriating to have to stand behind them
as they try to put their $2.31 change, or whatever, back into
their proper receptacles. Go outside and use the Porto-San, or
Neatness counts, most of the time, but not
at the cashier!
Some of them must have to get to work on time,
Why do they have to idle, for they never seem
to be in a rush, and they completely ignore the mounting anxieties
of the long line of customers behind them?
Were they never taught etiquette?
We don't have no stinkin' time for manners
Maybe they are not New Yorkers.
Personally, I am not neat. I'm not proud of
that sad fact, but it's true.
Personally, I am much too selfish. I don't
give change to every beggar. I am usually preoccupied with looking
at fenestration patterns, or trying to figure out the latest crash
on my computer, or trying to remember the flash of inspiration
for a column, or whatever.
But I never hold up a waiting line to smooth
out the lines of my wrinkled raincoat or overstuffed briefcase.
I simply go outside and then go through whatever motions of tidiness
might be absolutely necessary for a modern bagman.
Change, of the pocket variety, is one of New
York's "things." Those of us lucky enough to remember
the great Horn & Hardart change booth islands that were to
the 1940's and 1950's what the disco mirror ball was to the 1960's
and 1970's know what fascination there is in the shuffling of
nickel and silver (as in old dimes) on a marble counter by the
coin master (coinmeister to you webfreaks) at the Horn
& Hardart and to the Jackie Gleason-era New York City busdrivers
who not only coped with two-way traffic but, almost more importantly,
made change while doing so.
I guess what separates men from women is pockets.
Why don't all women's clothes have pockets.
I suppose that hiphugging, svelte style demands no protuberances
and ungainly asymmetry, but a bit of practicality goes a very
long way in pacifying, mollifying and smoothing the fevered breasts
of those of us at the back of the line. My mother used to wear
handpainted Italian linen skirts that flared and flowed and had
side pockets, which make for a very graceful look, no matter what
the fashion dictators proclaim!
This peevish diatribe is not against the hard-working,
quick-handed cashiers of either sex behind the counter, and is
just about simple consideration and the matter of seconds.
In a bustling city, there are lots of people
with different agendas, schedules, priorities. My priority is
to grab my morning coffee and rush to my desk to gear up for the
day's work. One could cite many examples of line-waiting that
eat away the day, such as standing behind someone at the bank
who happens to have deposits to make for her best 38 friends that
day. Fortunately, some banks have special lines for "business"
services that those innocuous-looking depositors know to go to,
but for the unsuspecting, impoverished soul eager to make one
simple transaction it can be an agony to discover that the short
line is nothing of the sort.
We hurry in New York because there is so much
to do and because it is our way. We like to think of slow, methodical
people when we travel to Maine or New Hampshire, or maybe the
South, but here we pride ourselves on energy, efficiency, and,
hopefully, excellence in communications and transactions. Justice
delayed is justice denied, as lawyers occasionally remember, and
change delayed is opportunity denied.
New Yorkers, influenced as always by the taxi-mentality,
like the fast lane.
New Yorkers, the natural jaywalkers, the kings
of the gutter, like to veer and dart.
We like movement. We don't like the status-quo,
Move it, lady!
Footnote: New Yorkers are decent folk, of course,
as any bus-rider can observe when someone always comes through
and provides change for the hapless, stupid, fareless traveler
who summons up the chutzpah to ask the "bus" for the
change for an ugly dollar bill. (America will never be a very
cultured society until our paper currency begins to look like
something other than a dirty dishrag, which is maybe why some
of these ladies are so disdainful of having to pocket their change.
I'm sure some man must have been a similar culprit, but I haven't
witnessed him yet. Also, none of this tantrum applies to mothers
who have children with them, of course.