There is no place on earth my mother hates more than New York City. Mention it and she’ll run through the litany of travesties that befell her the sole time she visited Manhattan, in 1963.
“At breakfast,” she’ll tell you, “I asked for a roll, and they brought out a roll. A giant, stone cold dinner roll. And when I sat there blinking at it, they asked if I wanted butter.”
Because we moved to Miami from Dallas when I was three, even as a child I wasn’t able to muster sufficient indignation at this, the crowning outrage of her stay here. “You didn’t want butter?” I said.
He’s still looking at me. I am trying to figure out what I did wrong. This is a classic New York breakfast, up there with the corn muffin when it comes to indigenous Manhattan morning foods.
I point to the display case of bread. Comprehension dawns across his face. It’s a roll, he tells me with great care, and then he enunciates the word and stretches it out for me so that I, poor witless creature, will understand. Rollll, not bun. Rolllllll. Here, say it with me.
Roll. Got it.
I move down the line and stand in front of the cash register. My egg and cheese appears, wrapped in white paper, and the clerk behind the cash register tries to put it in a plastic bag.
“That’s OK,” I say. “I don’t need the sack.”
I sigh. Bag, sack, whatever. I am still learning how to hail a taxi, how to give directions to a cabbie, how to decipher the subway system. I was hoping that I could at least order breakfast.