There’s no Berlitz course for Manhattan.
I get breakfast at the 810 Deli every morning on my way to work. Today there was a cashmere-coated cellphone executive with a leather briefcase at the register. “No, TWO SANDWICHES!” he was saying with an air of exasperation. The Greek clerk behind the register was stonefaced. “Yes, egg and cheese, two times.” “No, TWO SANDWICHES!” “Egg and cheese, two times.”
Now, the phrase “Two times”, like “coffee, sweet and light”, or “stangitty closindoorz”, has special meaning in Manhattan. It has a precise, mathematical definition — two carbon copies of your entire order. If X were your egg sandwich, and Y was your cafe latte, then “Egg sandwich and a latte, two times” means 2*( X + Y ), not 2X + Y.
Unfortunately, there is no good place to learn this before you find yourself in front of a stainless-steel counter at rush hour with a line of stockbrokers, copier salesmen, and German tourists behind you. Part of me wanted to take this guy aside and explain the situation to him, but I refrained. After all, I had been blooded in the city, and now so was he; why should I make it easy for him and rob him of that special, smug feeling he’ll get later when he’s standing in line, watching someone ELSE make the same mistake?
“Is that one sandwich, or two? That’s not two eggs on one sandwich, is it?”
“Egg and cheese, two times!”