Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Person of the Year

Time magazine has at long last made its “Person of the Year” selection. I was on tenterhooks with anticipation and can now rest easy. Anyway, befitting my blog’s general theme, I thought it appropriate to personally select a local “Person of the Year,” and I have. I won’t even mention his name. In fact, I don’t even know the man’s name. What I do know is that he works very hard—six- and seven-day weeks—and supplies the area with a great product. He sells pizza and assorted specialty dishes, gives you a real bang for your buck, and he’s an all-around nice guy, too.

Yesterday, while patronizing his establishment, which I frequently do, a fellow customer stood by awaiting a slice of pizza that was heating in the oven. He had parked his car in front of the shop, but opted not to purchase a meter parking ticket. I think it’s twenty-five cents for ten minutes now, which not too long ago was twenty-five cents for fifteen minutes. He figured he’d be in and out in a flash—no biggie. But this is New York City in the twenty-first century and, sure enough, a meter maid materialized in a flash with her computer ticket writer in hand. Lurking in the shadows and ready to pounce, meter personnel are ubiquitous in the City That Never Sleeps, and the little guy hasn’t got a chance.

When the pizza parlor patron ran outside to plead his case, my favorite Pizza Man wistfully peered out his front window and shook his head. I said something like: “The city needs money. I guess this is how they get it today.” He replied with something like, “You said a mouthful.” He then proceeded to tell me of the perpetual health inspections he and countless fellow New York City eateries are subject to nowadays: “This morning this inspector comes in while I am preparing a big order for a Christmas party. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘Do what you have to do, but I’ve got to work.’ I told him that somebody was in here last week. He says to me, ‘Really. I didn’t know that.’ You wouldn’t believe how much money they’ve taken from me.”

Sadly, my Pizza Man’s tale of woe is not unusual. This is the reality of today's New York City. And when combined with the exorbitant rents charged by conglomerate—and mostly faceless landlords—it's often a lethal one-two punch. “It’s not like it was," my Pizza Man said. Indeed, this small business guy—working his butt off—summed it up succinctly: “They won’t let you rise!” This line struck me as both eloquent and apropos—particularly for a pizza maker—in this once special town. I'd like to believe there are better days ahead for the Average Joe and Jane in old New York? But the reality snapshot keeps whispering in my ear: Fuggedaboutit!

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