Old Lady and the Tuna

I’m not sure what it is, but hot weather seems to draw New York City grandmothers outside. It’s strange, really—it’s kind of like moths to a flame. It’s amazing how many of them you’ll see outside in their housecoat-like dresses, pushing (usually) empty carts along, looking like they’re going to collapse at any moment. It may have something to do with the fact that many of them feel that air conditioning is a “luxury” or “too expensive,” even though they’re risking death, frankly, by being outside.

Anyway, generally I try to show at least a modicum of respect for my aforementioned “elders.” So today, for instance, while I was out running a few errands, I swung by Subway on my way back to my apartment to grab some lunch. I followed an ancient-looking woman in who was stooped over from osteoporosis—I held the door for her and walked slowly behind her as she very gingerly ambled up to the counter. (I was about a second away from offering to help her, but decided against it, because I’m really not that nice of a person.)

And then she opened her mouth. Stabbing at the bread selection chart with a gnarled finger, she demanded at a near-foghorn volume level, “IS THAT WHEAT BREAD? I WANT WHEAT BREAD.”

The guy behind the counter asked her what she wanted on it—I personally think he made a mistake in assuming that she didn’t just want to gnaw on a big loaf of day-old wheat bread. “GIMME TUNA FISH. BUT I DON’T WANT NO MAYO.”

The poor guy behind the counter, who is as nice as he can be (I’m in there frequently enough that he knows me by face), is a Pacific Islander so he obviously did not learn English as his first language. That said, he does speak pretty good English most of the time, but apparently this woman flustered him enough that he was having trouble explaining to her that the pre-prepared tuna salad already had mayonnaise in it.

“DOES IT GOT A LOT OF MAYO IN IT? I DON’T LIKE MAYO. CAN YOU TAKE THE MAYO OUT OF IT?” Wisely, the Subway Sandwich Artist just sadly nodded “no,” while I made what was probably a horrendously baffled expression as I thought about how one would, exactly, go about extracting the mayonnaise—which is, in and of itself, a colloid—from a batch of tuna salad.

At that point another guy took my order and so the crone-like, klaxon-level voice emanating from the surprisingly frail old woman next to me just kind of got tuned out to the level of background noise. Until, that is, I got to the register; I was waiting to collect my receipt when this woman ambled back over, physically shoved me out of the way, and… well… “GIMME S’MORE NAPKINS! I NEED MORE NAPKINS!”

Now, keep in mind that this woman ordered a six-inch tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread with absolutely no other condiments at all. I’m not sure why an average person would need more than one or two napkins to eat something relatively no-fuss, so I can only assume that this woman is medically unable to contain food inside of her own mouth. Or something equally gross.

So anyway, she waddled back to her table and by the time I headed out the door, she was already seated, scrutinizing the nutritional information that Subway prints on its napkins (the whole “7 subs with 6 grams of fat or less” deal), and I would not have been shocked at all if she had wandered back over to the counter a third time and shrieked about that. “WHAT IS THIS CHART? WHY’S IT NOT GOT TUNA ON IT? DOES THE TUNA HAVE MAYO?”

Oh, Brooklyn, I really do love you, but sometimes I wish I could take a pencil and eraser to your demographics.