Tuesday, March 26, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Hero

I can hardly remember a March 17th that didn’t include an encounter with one or several fools from a cast of alcohol-soaked, green-layered characters: a slurring girl frantically accusing strangers of stealing her coat, a couple weaving home from a bar while one of them cries, a bro breaking his hand on some other bro’s face. Last year, I actually think I saw all of them in one day. It was like getting the Leprechaun Full House. St. Patrick’s can be a time of fun and friendship, but, like night of the full moon, it can also be a time for crazy.

To celebrate this year’s Irish-For-A-Day holiday, I enjoyed approximately 100 beers (give or take) with my friends in the northern suburbs on Saturday night, and returned home on the afternoon of St. Patrick’s day proper more interested in watching PBS on the couch than getting my green on. I was satisfied in doing so, with the exception of one issue.  The missing part of my March 17th experience had been the food: I didn’t obtain the corned beef sandwich that I had been fantasizing about for a full year. Although my family is less Irish than Lucky Charms, we usually enjoyed traditional corned beef around the holiday. It was almost 8pm when I convinced myself that I deserved to uphold my family tradition.

I bundled up and entered the elements with one goal in mind – the New York Deli on Clark. If this blog were a Yelp review, I’d give it 5 stars (like most people do) and comment on its amazing sandwiches, classic checkered floor, and small business awesomeness (and I'd mention that the sell AND deliver craft beer), but that night it got even better than that.

That night, while I waited for my corned beef sandwich at a tiny table at the deli, I overheard the story of another St. Pat’s brute and witnessed some St. Pat’s chivalry.

The gal with long curly dark hair had been sitting alone near the back of the tiny shop. I noticed her when I walked in, as I considered if I should order my dinner to go or to stay. She wasn’t eating when I arrived, just sitting quietly, looking intently at her phone.

After a few minutes of us all sitting in the pleasant silence, she approached the store owner as he prepared sandwiches behind the counter. I could hear voice halt and crack. She began to cry, and I looked up from my magazine.

She apologized for loitering.

I just drove 5 hours.
He’s in a rage.
He slashed my tires.

Sandwich making halted.
You are safe here, Dave, the proprietor soothed. Can I get you anything? No rush. Stay as long as you need.

The Girl With Slashed Tires thanked him embarrassedly and returned to her seat. Moments later I heard her on the phone with a friend describe the “rage” of the man she was hiding from the way we talk about making that biannual dentist appointment; no one likes it, but we all live with it. The girl and the brute had been dating for 2 years.

Our shopkeeper, his only employee at the moment, walked away from the sandwiches. He came out from behind the counter with a cup of water for The Girl.

Handing her a card he said, This is my personal information.

I’m not being weird or creepy, I’m a happily married man. 
You can stay as long as you want.
You are safe here.
You can do better than him.
That behavior is inappropriate and mean.
You call me if you need anything.
I know every cop in town.

She thanked him again and he returned to finish adding the perfect amount of mustard to my hot and fresh St. Patrick’s Day sandwich. I paid in cash and tipped him. I said thank you. Twice.

I walked north to my house while the St. Patrick’s Day Brute surely roamed the neighborhood in a rage.  I wished that the Girl With Slashed Tires had never existed, but I had a warm heart knowing that the Dave at the New York Deli was looking out for her.  St. Pat's has its fair share of crazies, but it has its heroes, too.


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