I HAD an important lunch meeting at a fancy restaurant in Tribeca in New York the other day.
I got there early and sat at the marble slab bar to wait. The bartender clad in a vest and tie handed me a menu printed on very fancy paper with very fancy descriptions of very non-fancy things.
I said, “I’ll have the Ethiopian triple filtered fair trade vaporized probiotic long grain coffee.”
The bartender snarled a bit. Suddenly a man walked in who looked like Santa Claus after his reindeer had dragged him to a Russian strip club, 14 Chechnyan convicts had had their way with him and he had then participated in a Rodeo competition and been trampled by a 400 ton bull.
He smelled like garbage stew and was wearing a sweater with what looked like the American flag buried under 16 inches of dirt and I wondered if that was a metaphor for the whole country.
There was a collective gasp through the entire place, the gold plated chandeliers rattled and the customers made disgusted faces, which wasn’t apparent to the naked eye due to the massive amounts of botox.
The man slipped up to the bar next to me and in the most Southern drawl I had heard in a long time said, “I was tol’ I could cum hur to git a cup a caffee!”
He then handed the mortified bartender a piece of paper with a number scribbled on it.
“You-you-you want me to call this number for you so you can get a cup of coffee?” The bartender’s voice trembled.
“No, I was tol’ I could cum hurr to git A CUP. OF. COFFEE.”
“You want me to GIVE you a cup of coffee?” Giving was not a concept this snooty bartender was able to grasp or had been trained to do.
“I’ll pay for his coffee,” I said and felt like I had just walked straight out of the 1940’s Preston Sturgess film ‘Sullivan’s Travels’. Who knows, this bum may be some kind of a prince?
Sweat was dripping down the bartenders face. “Fine,” he stuttered, “TO GO, right?”
“Nah,” the bum said firmly, “I’ll have it...right hurr!”
The bartender’s face dropped and he gulped as loud as I would imagine a whale’s fart would sound. Then he poured the coffee into a gold rimmed, white porcelain cup for homeless Santa and as my meeting tapped me on the shoulder I thought, this was just another day in New York City.
Lucie Pohl: Cry Me A Liver, Gilded Balloon, until 31 August, 4pm, £8, 0131-226 0000