08/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Deli Girl: A Tip o' the Hat to You

After writing a tribute to New York City's valiant sanitation men, I now turn my attention to another criminally unappreciated sector of New York City workers: the deli girl. Specifically, the sullen, overly-tanned, skimpily-dressed, Blackberrying girl who grudgingly works the summer-break shift as a favor to her Uncle Frank. These young women power this great city!

They hate working at the deli. They hate you. They just want to be at the beach.

Last week I went to my local Brooklyn deli for their "famous" meatball parm. The counter girl, busy Blackberrying, did not look up when I entered the store. This is standard. Her cleavage, located directly under her chin, swelled luxuriously out of her tiny tank top. Her hair was long and black. Her skin was the burnished mahogany color currently favored by the deli girls in my neighborhood.
I waited for a few minutes while she finished tapping out a message with neon pink nails. Tap tap tap tap tap. Then she looked up at me and narrowed her eyes. New York deli girls do not say, "May I help you?" If they do, leave the store immediately.

I nervously cleared my throat and ordered my sandwich.

Her kohl-rimmed eyes returned to the glowing screen. "Mike," she hollered absently. "Make a meatball parm."

Mike seemed to be taking a break in the back of the store. "You do it," said a disembodied voice, presumably Mike's.


"I'm busy." I heard the rustle of a newspaper.

Finally she sighed, cursed under her breath, and turned away to make the sandwich. Her micro-shorts, rolled down to display her lower-back tattoo, said "Hollis" on them. She whipped three meatballs onto a roll, slammed the sandwich in a bag and stuck her hand out for payment.
When that greasy bag is flung at you, you can only be in one place: New York City!

"Have a nice day," she said angrily, as I left the deli with a big grin on my face.