Unlike most modern men, the Curmudgeon doesn’t cook.
He enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, particularly for summer family picnics and holidays, and has whipped up the occasional birthday cake for yours truly. But for the most part, he leaves the cooking to me.
I don’t mind cooking because it gives me a nice measure of control over what I eat, but I don’t love it like some people. I’m not a foodie nor a gourmet cook, though I cook more than a lot of people with so-called gourmet kitchens.
On average, I cook dinner six days a week, reserving one weekend day for take-out pizza. When you live within spitting distance of New Haven, CT., the pizza capital of the world, you feel justified having pizza often, even if it’s only New Haven-style pie from the pizza parlor down the block.
The exception occurred last weekend when my sisters and I ventured to New Haven’s famed Wooster Street for Sally’s Apizza for a birthday celebration, though our experience reminded me why we never go there. We ordered three large pies, and were told they’d be ready at 1:15.
I looked at my watch, and it was 1:13 p.m. “Wow, that’s fast,” I thought. “This is awesome. No wait at all.”
And then I realized that I hadn’t changed my watch to Daylight Savings Time. It was only 12:13 and we were looking at an hour-long wait. No matter. We were together with my mom for the first time in several weeks, and would make the most of it in the parking lot turned dining room next to Sally’s.
Still, our wait was a bit of a surprise to some of my siblings.
“Who eats pizza at noon on a Sunday?” one of my sisters asked. “Where are these people coming from?”
Apparently, a lot of people eat pizza for lunch on Sundays. There were license plates from New York and New Jersey lining Wooster Street and a knot of customers on the sidewalk waiting for take-out orders. This is why I don’t like going to Sally’s under normal circumstances. There’s always a line, and people stare at you while you eat your pizza.
I don’t like to be watched while I’m eating because it makes me nervous and self conscious. I think this is a pretty universal feeling, even among animals. My dog steals away to another room when I give her treats or bones to relish them in privacy and thoroughly enjoy them.
Within a few minutes, the early November chill gnawed at our bones, and two of my sisters left to buy hot coffee at a pastry shop down the street. Those of us who remained at the picnic table stayed masked, noting a nice side benefit of masks is they keep your face warm.
Just as my sisters returned with the coffee, it started to drizzle. As the first drops fell, people at adjacent tables scrambled for cover, snapping up every table under a tent lining half of the parking lot. I didn’t think people could move so fast. It reminded me of musical chairs where people find seats as fast as possible, leaving their competition in the dust.
I don’t begrudge people taking the tables under the tent. Well, I do. We were there before almost everyone else, and had the horrible luck of being furthest from the tent. But what was most galling is that a pack of teen-agers swooped under the tent, without considering that a group of elders was getting soaked.
Worse, three of their fathers observed their actions, and commandeered another table for themselves. They could have sat with the kids, but apparently wanted their space. Apparently, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
As we took cover in our cars while the pizzas baked in the wood-fired brick ovens, the birthday girl and I shook our heads, saying we hope we’ve taught our sons better. I assume that my son and his brethren would give up their seats for a group of women, including an 86-year-old grandma, but who knows? Maybe I’ve dropped the ball too.
To my mind, there’s nothing that says more about parenting than good manners. With the at-times regrettable help of Barney, I taught my kids to say “please” and “thank you,” as well as the other intricacies of living in a world with other people.
I wasn’t surprised that those three fathers missed the chance to school their kids on kindness and consideration because they were leading by example. And that’s perhaps the most disappointing part of our experience.
We didn’t say anything to the kids or the fathers, though we did grumble about them under our breath. I noted that if people are rude enough to take two tables for themselves when one would do, they might not be receptive to a lecture on manners by strangers.
The good news is that we finally snagged a table under the tent, and wolfed down several slices of plain, pepperoni and white clam pizza. The wait – and the aggravation – was worth it. It really is the best pizza around – sweet sauce and thin crust with black soot that covers your lips and fingers.
Still, I’ll probably be like my old friend John S., who lives on Wooster Street yet never goes to Sally’s or its equally famous counterpart Pepe’s because he can’t stand all the fuss. I understand, I really do.