Since Sept. 11, nothing has given me more satisfaction than writing a little note to the megamoron at the motor club who threatened to end my mom's membership because she used their services an excessive three times in one year.
"Dear Sir!" penned I. "As you will see from your OWN RECORDS, these service requests all came on the SAME DAY. Why? Because TWICE your brilliant diagnosticians declared her car shipshape and sped off, clueless that her battery was DEAD! As in brain-DEAD mechanics! As in 'DEATH TO THE AAA!' As in, 'What part of DEAD BATTERY don't you understand?"'
As the steam shot out my ears, gradually I realized this was exactly the kind of letter I'd been longing to write ... to Osama bin Laden.
"What part of 'B-52' don't you understand?"
"Yes, everyone's just incredibly angry," sighed my husband, Joe. "There's all this fear and rage right beneath the surface."
Sure, sure, supposedly we're all being incredibly nice to each other now. That's the party line. But when a cabbie swerves into the crosswalk, when a jerk takes up two seats on the subway, when some idiot bumps into us with an oversize backpack, no matter that he's in kindergarten, trust me: We're going Talibananas!
At a deli, Kim Osborne ordered a sandwich that arrived with mayo on it. When she asked if she could have it plain, she had to go through the waitress, manager and owner before they took it back.
"Then, as I was eating it," Kim continues, "the manager brought over a paper menu and said sarcastically that she was giving this to me so I could order my sandwich 'properly' the next time." OK. Kim had made the mistake of missing the word "mayo" on the menu. So she added under her breath, 'If there is a next time."'
Whereupon the manager returned with $6.20 and said, 'We want to help you make up your mind. Please don't come back. We don't need this kind of attitude."' Oh, but that is the attitude of New York these days.
My friend Jim was on a bus where everyone was forced to listen to a guy on his cell phone complaining about his service.
"I'm sorry your transmitter was down," shouted the man into his phone. "But why should I have to take it? Huh? Why?"
Then, Jim says, the guy asked the service rep her name and started saying, 'Well, Debbie. What are you going to do about it, Debbie? Who do I complain to, Debbie?"
"Who do we complain to?" Jim finally shouted igniting a full-fledged fight.
"I have a right to talk on the phone!" the man screamed.
"You're not talking. You're bitching and whining!"
"No, I'm not."
"I think Debbie would beg to differ!" And on and on till the guy finally got off.
And so did Jim. Ten blocks before his stop, just to apologize. "I said, 'I'm sorry, my nerves are frayed and it was aggravating to listen to someone else's argument,"' recalls Jim. "And he sort of patted me on the shoulder and said, 'I'm sorry, too."'
So that's New York these days. Kindly. Crazy. Teetering on the brink of a breakdown. But verrrry interesting.
Lenore Skenazy's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.