ordering lunch at 15th and Walnut


I occasionally order lunch at a food cart stationed at 15th & Walnut.  It is run by a cheerful Middle Eastern man whose name I haven’t learned yet.  I was there last week when the following episode happened.

A young American-American man in his early 20’s walked up to the cart.  He wore designer jeans and an expensive-looking thin gray hoodie.  He took a can of Coke out of the lower beverage trough, then eyed the man cooking in the cart.  “What you got?” he asked.  He spoke with a slightly effeminate lilt and his lips were pursed in a face of constant impatience.  “What you got?” he asked again.  The man inside the cart didn’t hear him, as he was turned away cooking.

The young man decided to examine the big list of purchasable food and prices printed prominently on the side of the truck.  “How much for a sausage?  A big one.  A big fat one,” the young man asked.  “I want a big one.”

The cook turned away from his cooking back to the cart window.  “Two fifty,” the cook said, echoing exactly the text printed on the menu.

“Okay,” the young man said flatly.  “Give me one.”

The cook fished the sausage out of its metal compartment and sliced a roll.  “I only got two twenty-five and a token,” the young man said, looking off down the street as he spoke.  The cook dismissed the problem with a grunt and a shrug.

“Ketchup?” the cook asked.

“Yeah.”  The cook applied ketchup.

“Cheese.  I want cheese on there.  Put cheese on there.”

The cook, perhaps a little puzzled, looked around his cart.  “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cheese.”

The young man made a psshft sound.  “Mayo?  You put mayo on there?”

The question was ambiguous to me, but the cook applied mayo and the young man seemed happy with it.  The cook held the sausage out for approval.

“Put more ketchup on there!” the customer exclaimed.  “Shit.”

The cook applied more ketchup.  “Anything–”

The young man flipped open his phone and looked down the street.  “Yeah.  I’m here.  I’m here.  Right here.  By the cart.  You see me?”  The cook waited, sausage in outstretched hand.

The young man flipped the phone shut and took the sausage from the cook.  He handed over a bill and some coins.  “The Coke.  You buy the coke?” the vendor asked.

The young man reached a hand up, perhaps to make some gesture.  The Coke fell out of the front pocket of his hoodie and rolled along the concrete.  The young man reached down and picked up the can, holding it the way one holds an empty banana peel.  “I was gonna but then I changed my mind,” he said, and tossed the Coke back into the drink trough.  He took a bite of the sausage and walked off.

I exchanged a look with the vendor, who chuckled with a face that said, ‘what can you do?’  I looked at the other remaining customer who was also waiting for food.  That third customer was a mid-20’s man with a bit of a South Philly Italian look to him.  “That guy sucks more dick than my wife,” he said and shook his head.  I didn’t glance to see if he wore a wedding ring.  I’m not sure what I would have wanted to see.

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3 thoughts on “ordering lunch at 15th and Walnut

  1. Tim

    That guy sounds like a turkey. As a writer, do you feel like it’s more difficult to intervene or make comments even after the fact as either could detract from your pure observation of the event?

    Reply
    1. nmirra Post author

      In that moment, I was just a guy getting lunch. I wasn’t thinking about how it was a moment worth writing up until it was over. Generally, I don’t think I would avoid participation in an event for writing’s sake, unless I was intentionally thinking of writing something nonfiction and journalistic (not a word). You writing at all these days?

      Reply
  2. Tim

    Good point, I guess. Pretty awesome urban observation. For my part, minimal writing, unfortunately. Lots of chess though.

    Reply

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