Freudian Slips: Armenian Cheese an American Slice of Life

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

March 24, 2005

Armenian Cheese an American Slice of Life

"Armenian String cheese has a mild taste and the color of the cheese is pure white. A Syrian-style String cheese is similar to regular String cheese. This cheese is used as a table cheese and also for Middle Eastern cooking."
Many convenience stores are being bought out by Middle Easterners. Not too long ago, my favorite Wawa fell into the hands of strangers. I remember my first visit to the store after it had been sold. The staff had been let go. Strange music played over the intercom. My nostrils could not detect the smell of hot piping coffee. The shelves were not barren but they lacked brimming inventory. I found only one man juggling the floor, cashier, and deli. He had no business in the deli that day. If only I had no business in the deli that day.
"May I help you?" asked the turban wearing man before walking behind the deli counter.
"I'll take a pound of American cheese."
"Armenian cheese?" he questioned.
I repeated my first cold cut order, "American cheese, thank you."
"Ah American. Good choice. How much, say again?"
"A pound." I was confused. I thought to myself, does Armenian cheese really exist or is he stringing me along?
He acted confused in a scaled down sort of way. "How much is a pound?"
"Sixteen magnificent ounces, why?"
"No. How much cheese please?" He labored in his communication and enunciated only broken English.
"A pound please."
"No. How many slices do you want?"
It was almost time to look around for the Candid Camera. "I don't care how many slices? As long as it amounts to a pound of cheese at the end of the order, I'll be happy."
Then came the real problem. "We no have no, how do you say, scale?"
"Wait a minute. The deli doesn't own a scale? That is ludicrous."
All he did was smile. He did not understand my language let alone the sarcasm embedded in it. What was a patron saint to do?
"The cheese please?" I repeated.
He held his ground, this time without a smile. "How many slices?" He made a violent chopping motion with his hand which approximated a violent beheading. I was floored. He got my dander up and it showed.
"Give me 34 slices." I barked. "That's right. 44 slices. Not 43 or 45. 44 slices of American cheese. Not Armenian cheese, Iranian cheese or Turkey cheese for that matter. I want American cheese. White cheese, not yellow or jaundice looking."
"Yes." he grinned.
I watched a Middle Eastern man slice cheese quite possibly for the first time in his deli career. He seemed timid of the precision spinning slicer. I didn't order any fingers on the side so his hesitancy worried me. Into the store walked a twenty something deliveryman coming off manning a cell phone.
"Can anyone tell me what store number is this? I have a delivery?"
The meat slicer spun to a screeching halt. The foreigner put the block of cheese down. Oh no, I thought to myself. Before he could walk out to tend to the deliveryman, I got questioned.
"Buddy, do you work here?" asked the deliveryman.
"Never." I answered.
"I have a delivery."
"...I hope it is a scale." I remarked.
"No, bread."
The deli man made himself visible. He did not introduce himself and won no leadership points as an entrepreneur. He just stood there raising that same silly smile. I will forever refer to it as a cheesy Armenian smile.
"This is my last delivery of the day. I want to get done. I got a sick kid at home. What store number is this? My chart says this the Wawa?"
The deli man did not answer. He did not move. He was as pliable as Plymouth rock.
"Sharif, are you deaf?" the deliveryman scolded.
No answer. The deliveryman stormed out of the store. His frustration literally spilled over into the streets. I figured that was the end of him but he wasn't leaving. The deliveryman marched through the parking lot and out to the road to examine the store sign. I saw his hands waving wildly. He returned to the store outraged.
"Yo. Yo." He summoned the deli man. Down went the block of cheese. "How long have you been working here, Sharif?"
"One week." he answered.
"You have been working here one week and you don't know the name of your freaking store?"
The turban wearing man raised a single gloved finger. "No, I have been in America one week."
"It looks like your sign used to say Wawa but a makeover reads Pantry. I must know the right name and number of this store so my bread can be signed for?"
No answer. The deliveryman looked to me for help. After all, I was the only one foolish enough to be doing business in the store.
"Don't look at me." I admonished politely. "He is the one new to America and he has got me conditioned into ordering a tray of cold cuts by the slice."
"Ugh, what the frick is this country coming to?" exclaimed the deliveryman before storming out of the store in a huff. He left for good this time taking his delivery cart of bread back to the truck.
My forty four slices of American cheese were ready ten minutes later. I counted aloud in English. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen...slices. He asked me "how much" at the register.

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Blogger justrose said...

A marvelous story. It reminds me of a corned beef special I ordered once from a recent arrival in our fair land which was neither special nor corned beef.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Corned beef could be the basis for a more meaty posting than my cheesey story. Justrose, I drive by this store everyday. Difference is, I don't stop.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a friend of mine that ordered a vegetarian hoagie at the local WAWA . She being of Italian decent expected to receive a medley of roasted eggplant, roasted pepper and provolone cheese stuffed into a real Italian roll. When she got home and unwrapped her Italian delight, her eyes beheld the skinniest hoagie she has ever see. In between the roll was lettuce, tomato and onion. That's it! No oil or seasoning to help her swallow the $5.00 rip-off.ET

10:13 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

It rivals the Italian hoagie I once ordered in a Chinese restaurant. I was with you that day.

8:51 PM  

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