March 22, 2008

Round Numbers

I am just a few days from departing on my twice-annual pilgrimage to the place of my birth, Washington, DC. Whenever I go back, I often find myself immersed in nostalgia for things that I remember from my childhood - Some rather impressive and grand, such as school field trips to the Smithsonian, and others rather mundane.

My mother still shops at the same grocery store that she did when I was very small... An independent grocery store with only one location. She likes that store because they have excellent meats.

When I was a kid, my mother would take us shopping with her, and she would walk the aisles, routinely grabbing things off of the shelves and placing them in the basket. At some point, we would find ourselves at the Deli counter. The store was always busy, so it was rare that you would walk up and be served right away. Off to one side, there was a little machine, where you'd pull down a handle, and out would pop a a little ticket with a number on it. As a kid, it was always a special treat to get to "pull the handle".

As you walked up to the Deli, you'd see the number, and wonder what number you would get. The mechanical sign behind the counter would read, "NOW SERVING: 9" and when you went to pull the handle and get your ticket, you wondered if you were going to get number 10, or number 17.

I was thrilled when I got number 10... but as a kid, you start to wonder... What if someone else has also has number 10? What if she just skips past you, and on to number 11, or stops taking numbers altogether? Of course, she would always serve number 10, but it always took longer than you thought it should.

However long the wait, it was always worth it. They really did have the best meat anywhere. In fact, it would have been worth the wait even if I was number 11!

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