What’s For Lunch?

I had seen a 10 minute play which starts with a character complaining that when he tried to purchase a bottle of aspirin at a drug store, the clerk told him: “We don’t have that.”

It reminded me of a strange experience I had on Staten Island more than 30 years ago.

We were in Stapleton, a few miles from our home in St. George. It looked like an ordinary luncheonette — big CocaCola sign — soda fountain counter with a row of round stools that you can spin on, and booths along the wall.

The place was empty, but it was not lunch hour. Carol and I sat down with Grace and Eve at one of the booths.

The waitress came over. “Can I help you?” We ordered hot dogs, french fries, and a grilled cheese sandwich. “We don’t have that,” said the waitress.

“You don’t have hot dogs or french fries,” I said, astonished.


“How about a Coke?”

“We don’t have that either.”

“How could a luncheonette not serve CocaCola?” I asked. “There’s even a Coke sign!”

“Just a minute,” she said, and walked to the back and through a door. A minute later a middle-aged man came out and walked to our table.

He pulled over a chair, sat down, and introduced himself. “My name is Bruno,” he said, and ask us our names. We introduced ourselves.

Bruno apologized for not having anything for us to order. He was soft-spoken with a sincere manner. He told us that he likes children and was very sorry that he doesn’t have any hotdogs or Coke (or anything else to eat).

He kept talking, and none of us felt like interrupting him. He told us about how he had been kind to a dog, and other stories emphasizing what a nice and caring person he is, and he kept apologizing.

After we left, I was puzzled; until Carol told me that the “luncheonette” must be a front for some racket. She said that the reason Bruno was telling us how good he is to dogs and children was because he did not want us to think badly of him for being a mobster.

Comments | 2

  • Large or small?

    True story.

    My mother and I once walked into a diner in upstate NY for a quick refresh.

    “Two cokes” we said to the waitress.

    “Large or small?” she replied.

    “Large!” we answered.

    “We only have small,” she told us.

  • "It tastes like chicken" salad

    When I was a kid, my cousins owned a funeral home in Pennsylvania. I lived in New York state, but visited my “kin” in PA most summers.

    One day we were playing outside and were called in for lunch. When we sat down at the kitchen table, a platter of chicken salad sandwiches made with dinner rolls and a plate of brownies was waiting on the table. It was the best chicken salad I had ever eaten and I had never had any like it before.

    Some years later, in 1972, I was employed at the local funeral home in the town where I lived in New York. My first day at work, the wife of the undertaker called us to the kitchen for lunch. No lie; when we sat down she put down a platter of delicious chicken salad sandwiches (also made with hard rolls) and a plate of brownies. Still freaks me out to this day.

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