Occupy Francis Lewis Boulevard

My barbers are, like many others in New York City, Jewish and Uzbek. I get my trim while listening to Russian-speaking Central Asians scream into their cell phones, all of which are so much cooler than mine; this particular virtual argument was about an order for an organic something that didn’t go through. I guess.

Then halfway through my haircut, a South Asian man walks into the barbershop and sits two chairs down from me. He’s wearing a dark brown shalwar qameez, the clothes most commonly worn by people in the northwest of the Subcontinent. Thin, baggy trousers and a long, billowy shirt. It’s also 52°.

Nobody notices. Not obviously, and not surreptitiously. Nobody looks up, raises eyes in surprise, or grins uncomfortably. I love New York.

After my haircut, I went next door to Subway for lunch (technically, and disgustingly, it was really breakfast, since it was 1;30 p.m. and I hadn’t had anything to eat all day). I should be Subway’s sponsor, a creeping Shari’ah version of formerly fat, now thin Jared. Maybe I can be formerly crazy, but now acceptably moderate Muslim “Abdul,” because of my diet of Subway sandwiches.

I eat there every day, or almost every other day, and thanks to my their reward points programs, I have put the fear of God and math into every Subway franchise within a ten-minute drive of me, all of which dread the day when I walk in and announce, I’d like to redeem my tens of thousands of points, and force them out of business. I am their Lehman Brothers. But of course I wouldn’t do that, because then where would I eat? (Surprisingly, that logic also captures the bond market and the Eurozone crisis.)

At the Subway, the man ahead of me was having a conversation with the cashier, something about Occupy Wall Street and the 99%. I expected it would be negative, but the whole experience actually turned out quite the opposite. So much so, I wrote this down. That guy turns to me as I’m asking for “just a little honey mustard,” but first let me describe him to you: he’s an old white guy, with an oversized baseball cap on his head, who says he was watching the news about Egypt, and I had to suppress a desire to leave the restaurant. But, again, surprise.

He said, “Did you know they’re shooting rubber bullets at people over there? And you know who made those rubber bullets?”

I do, of course, but I don’t say anything.

“We did!” he exclaims. He shakes his head. SMH style, although I imagine he has no idea what that means.

As I nod in recognition, that same South Asian man from the barbershop walks in and takes his place behind me in line. At this point, one of the two of us is stalking the other. For those of you who don’t know, South Asians are always made incredibly uncomfortable by other South Asians, meaning they are made anxious whenever they are in proximity to other South Asians, and the anxiety level spikes to cardiac proportions if those South Asians are of the opposite gender. Nobody knows why this is, but it is a convincing argument against evolution, because if we all have this mutual awkwardness gene, it doesn’t make any sense that there are hundreds of millions of us crammed into small spaces, breeding like, well, South Asian rabbits.

The customer at front grins at his rubber bullet origins story, but more out of exasperation than actual amusement. “They showed it on TV. A protester held a bullet up to the camera and it said, clearly, ‘Made in USA.’” I nodded my head blandly. He kept going, ever more frustrated. “Every other damn thing in the world is made in China, but when it comes to the rubber bullets and tear gas, somehow that gets made by us. Our government tells us we go abroad to do good things, but that’s not what I see on TV.”

He muttered something about how the government doesn’t care for ordinary Americans, and then he took his sandwich and left.

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