The woman in front of me was making me nervous. She was frenetic.
She was out of her gourd. And she was -- I was convinced -- going to walk
out of the deli with my order of two dozen latkes.
I had preordered my potato pancakes. The woman in front of me hadn't. She wanted 60 of them, and she wanted them loudly.
was going to make them myself, but I didn't want to stink," she said to
the guy behind the counter, oblivious to how this might sound to
someone who, like him, had been making latkes all day. "I'm going to
have 30 people over, and I don't want to stink from the oil."
deli was closing at 2. It was 1. I thought for sure the guy was going
to give her all the latkes he had just to get her aromatic self out of
his shop. So I was thankful when he walked out from behind the counter,
past the latkes lady, and presented me with an open tray of my fried
"Oh, those look good," the woman said. "Can I have a bite?"
"What?" I said.
"Just a little nibble. Just a corner," she said, reaching toward my tray.
"You're so funny. Why not? I'd let you."
The deli worker and I stood dumbstruck for a full three seconds before I finally stammered, "Um … it's cold and flu season."
was a nice thing to say. A way for her to regain control of her
faculties, realize that she had just crossed a line and back away
Instead she shot back, "I'll wear a glove."
not a conspiracy theorist, but I do think something terribly strange is
afoot when people ask to taste your food, hold up the line at the post
office because they can't believe stamps no longer cost 37 cents or put
infants through the X-ray machine at LAX.
Some claim that this
time of year is when "inexperienced" travelers and shoppers merge with
the rest of us, causing tensions to mount and jaws to drop. But I think
something more sinister is at work. The only logical conclusion for all
this bizarre behavior is this: Once a year, some giant underground
asylum throws open its doors and releases all its patients for three
weeks. People who don't normally see sunlight, let alone other humans,
are suddenly thrust upon an unsuspecting society.
are we at this time of year that we pay little mind to these peculiar
parolees. But they're out there. Everywhere. And they haven't come in
I have scant proof of this, but I believe that these
Christmastime Crazies operate on an Amway-like referral system, wherein
if they drive you bonkers enough, you'll be forced to return with them
to their lair on Jan. 2. You'll get a nice padded cell and your
recruiter will get, I don't know, a subscription to Us Weekly.
Christmas and Hanukkah behind us, we're in the homestretch. But be
warned, these nut jobs work New Year's, too. So for the next few days,
when you run across someone trying to sign a check with a candy cane,
keep a wide berth. Maybe I'm wrong. But, really, can you afford not to
listen to me if I'm right?
And be warned: The Crazies don't
just frequent stores, they work at them, too. At the kosher bakery, the
woman behind the counter warned patrons who had been standing there for
20 minutes that we'd be waiting another 10 for the next batch of
traditional Hanukkah jelly doughnuts. In the meantime, the first four
of us in line could place our orders for whatever else we wanted.
I ordered challah.
"We don't have challah."
"I'm looking at three loaves right behind you."
"Those are chocolate chip challah."
"Then I want chocolate chip challah. And I'll take a pound of burekas."
"What kind do you have?" I asked.
"Potato and mushroom," she answered.
"Give me half a pound of each."
"No. They're all potato and mushrooms," she explained.
"Then why did you ask me what kind I wanted?" I asked.
She shrugged. Then she smiled brightly, as if she had just come up with a great idea: "You can have potato and mushroom."
the meantime, a baker brought out a batch of jelly doughnuts. There
were 25 on the tray. The woman in front of me had requested 20. The man
in front of her wanted four. I felt my heart sink, realizing that I was
going to have to keep company with the Lucille Ball of kosher baking
for even longer.
But then she did something stupefying.
Bypassing the other patrons, she continued to fill my order. Challah,
burekas and one dozen doughnuts. The woman in front of me was outraged,
as well she should have been.
The nice thing to do would have
been to speak up and defer my doughnuts. And, particularly at this time
of year, I really do want to do the nice thing. But stand in that line
for any longer? I may be nice, but I'm not crazy.
And I want to keep it that way.