Friday, July 31, 2015

Welcome to D.C. and an Ode to the Bodega

"Welcome to D.C..." (in the tune of Taylor Swift)

So I'm late on my catalog of my year in the city. I've already worked at my new job for a month and SO much has happened. But I wanted to do snippets of stories instead of "this is what I did today" type things. So bare with me. Here is the first one

Ode to the Bodega 

LaKesha is my guide in this new place. When we metro in together I follow her lead like a good baby duck. She has a year on me with the commute so I imagined that she had an idea of where to go and what to do.

Day two of the new job, we were slowly meandering down Connecticut Ave towards work. "You hungry?"

"Holy God, yes. I didn't have coffee or anything yet. Getting up at 6:45a.m. is disagreeing with me" I said. So we walked into this hole in the wall bodega/cafe called The Daily Market. LaKesha would get a sandwich there pretty regularly.

"Watch, the woman that makes our sandwiches. She HATES me. Or women. Or both." she said.

And sure enough, this small 40-something Asian woman who made the deli sandwiches had an air of indifference towards L and I, but was sweet as molasses pie to all the male customers. It became a fascination over the rest of the month. So my usual was either a bacon, egg and cheese toasted on sourdough, or a good ole BLT. Pair that with an iced coffee, a container of mangoes and an Inkos Honeydew tea, and I was set for the day.

I digress.

Day after day was the same. Walk in around 9:45a.m. and greet the friendly Asian gentleman who I am guessing was the owner.

 "Good morning you!" he'd shout over the smoothie machine he was operating. I'd smile and wave, then make a beeline to the back. No time to chat my friend. Bacon is calling to me. "Hi. What you want?" grumpy-lady would ask.  Some days I'd buy for me and some I'd get L's usual for her (Turkey, Egg, Cheese and Tomato on Sourdough in case you are curious). When I'd only buy myself a sandwich she would look up from her order pad and say "No friend today? Okay, I make for you." This became our dance each day.

Then something changed in grumpy-sandwich-lady. I had made it a goal that 1) I'd make her smile, and 2) I'd make her have a real conversation with me.

After grabbing my sandwich for the day I looked up at her and said, "Thank you. You know these are the one thing I look forward to each morning before work." The corner of her mouth crept upward and her eyes softened.

Boom. There it was. A smile.

The next day she was a bit more pleasant, and by Thursday of that week we finally had a conversation. Surprisingly we ended up chatting about L being overseas, and how superstitious some people in Thailand are. And then we talked about my job and my love of bacon. It's a thing. Things were looking up for grumpy-gal and I!

Then Friday came. I got to the bodega a little late and had to wait in line behind a few regulars. I casually overheard part of their conversation...

"I can't believe it's closing. Where will I get my sammies now?" a sandy-haired businessman complained.

"You find somewhere. D.C. is full of food." she joked "Try food truck."

I internally started screaming... No. NO! I don't like change. What was this talk of closing?! They're closing the market!? I just got here!

When it was my turn, I questioned her. "So, when are you all closing for good?"

Without looking up from assembling my sandwich, she laughed "5:00p.m. today. That's it. We're done."

I had no warning! No time to mourn the loss. It was happening today. This would be my last sandwich. "Wow. I'm going to need more bacon to deal with this."

She smiled and handed me the sandwich. "You tell your friend hello for me. And have a good weekend to you."

"Take care of yourself." I murmured and wandered down the aisle to pay. Smoothie-man was standing at the ready with a sad smile. "You enjoy your job in the city. We appreciate your business. Enjoy the sunshine."

I walked out in a sad daze and trudged to work. How very dramatic right? It's a sandwich shop. The city is full of them. I get it. But the idea was that it had become part of the routine. There's even an angry little homeless man who never says thank you when you give him something who would park right outside the market.

He'd beg outside, or go in when someone bought him a sandwich (I did twice). The sandwich-woman would scold him when he'd get cranky about extra meat on his meal. "You shush. Pushy man. You get what I make and you say thank you to the lady." That shut him up and made me crack up laughing. Girl wasn't havin any of his shit. I, on the other hand, am a pushover. Now that the market was closing, the man was gone. Off to find another eatery to troll. I say troll because he wouldn't quietly sit with a cup or a sign. He wouldn't stand to the side or find a place in the shade to set up shop. He'd walk straight up to you and request a quarter, a dollar, a drink, and sandwich and/or a bowl of spaghetti (I'm not joking). I finally broke down and bought him the spaghetti once. He actually said thank you. But now that's over.

So now my walk is lonelier and hungrier. The windows have been covered and the padlock is set on the door. Rest in peace Daily Market. I hardly knew thee.


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