Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dodging a Pizza Bullet

For the most part, I don’t think that I’m a jerk. Then again, most jerks probably don’t think they’re jerks, so who knows? Point is, in my everyday dealings with people I am generally congenial and polite and usually go out of my way not to be offensive. This is why on the rare occasion when I do act like a jerk, I catch myself off guard.

Today I took the day off from work and caught a movie. (“Argo.” Very good. See it.) Prior to the movie I was looking for something to eat when I spied a pizzeria a few doors down from the movie theater. Originating as I do from Bensonhurst, I’m generally skeptical of pizzerias in Arizona. In the 18 years that I’ve lived in the desert I’ve managed to find a couple of good ones and I generally stick to those. But today, I was nowhere near my regular pizzerias so I figured I’d roll the dice on the one in front of me.

I went in, strolled up to the counter, and took a gander at the various pies on display under the glass. Most of the pies looked like they had been sitting out for a while. I was about to leave when I noticed that at the end of the counter was a Sicilian pie that looked pretty fresh.

“How can I help you?” asked the man behind the counter, who had a good eight inches and 150 pounds on me.

“Let me get one of your squares,” said I.

“It’s called Sicilian pizza,” he said.

(At this point it’s very important for me to point out that the above statement was said in the friendliest, most polite tone imaginable. He was clearly saying this simply to inform, not to enrage. Somehow my brain didn’t catch that significant difference.)

“Yeah, I know that’s what it’s called,” I said, barely able to contain my snarkiness.The man looked at me, mildly bemused, and asked which piece I wanted. (Again, nothing but friendly on his part.)

“I’ll have a corner,” I said.

“Here, let me give you the biggest one,” he said, turning the tray to get to an iPad-sized piece.As he walked over to the oven to warm my slice, I stood by the counter and found myself getting more and more agitated that this guy thought I didn’t know what Sicilian pizza was. I could not let it go.

He came back to ring me up and suddenly I found myself talking.

“I’m from Brooklyn,” I tell this guy who looks like he receives a pension from the NFL. “I know what Sicilian pizza is. I only called it a square because out here I assume that most people on the other side of the counter don’t know what it’s called.”

It was toward the end of my statement that I had a minor out-of-body experience. It was as though I was looking at myself mouthing off to this man who could easily reach across the counter and pound me into pixie dust, and I was helpless to stop myself.

He smiled at me, and for a split second I thought to myself, “So I guess the end comes in a pizzeria. That seems fitting.

“Would you like something to drink with that?” he asked, as pleasantly as one can imagine.

“Um…uh…I’ll have a small lemonade,” I stammered.

Then he gave me my drink, I paid, and I sat down to wait for my slice. He brought it out to me a few minutes later and I took a bite. To my utter delight it was absolutely delicious. One of the best Sicilian pizzas I’ve ever had. I was overjoyed. But the truth is I’ll never know if it really was that delicious, or if it simply seemed that delicious because everything tastes better after you’ve cheated death.