A Little Bit of Nice

Since I’ve disparaged a New York bodega in the past, it’s only fair that I should mention a little bit of understated kindness that I saw this morning at New Andy’s Deli at 873 Broadway, where I stopped to buy an egg sandwich.

Ahead of me in line was a little kid, must’ve been about ten years old, wearing an oversized backpack that one could say was adorably out of proportion to his pre-adolescent height. This was a city kid, to be sure, on his way to school and unintimidated by the adult world. He asked the woman behind the counter how much it would cost to get an egg and sausage sandwich on a roll, and when she answered “Two-fifty,” he looked away and took a step towards the door with a quiet kind of resignation — it wasn’t dejection or even a ploy for pity, just a wordless acquiescence.Before he got too far, the cashier said, “How much have you got?” and I watched the kid turn back, dig into his pants and unleash onto the counter a handful of the kinds of things boys store in their pockets; a permission slip of some kind, rubber bands, two or three coins, and a crumpled dollar bill — I looked for marbles, jacks and a slingshot, but I guess this is 2004.

Picking up the dollar bill, the woman behind the counter said, “Okay,” and then called back to the fry cook, “Can I have an egg and sausage on a roll?”

The boy stepped aside, I ordered my sandwich, and we both waited quietly for the fry cook to do his work. A few minutes later, he handed the cashier a sandwich wrapped in tin foil. She put it into a brown paper bag and without even looking at the boy, handed it over to him.

The boy took it in his hands and I watched for some kind of reaction from him. In a movie, he might have smiled or expressed some irresistible kind of gratitude, but I just saw him look into the bag briefly to check its contents and then walk out of the store. I looked back at the cashier, who was already ringing someone else up too. I don’t think either of them gave another thought to what happened between them.