Sophomore year in college, I was taking a sociology class to learn how to make friends. I was learning how to pick up on certain social cues such as if people are staring at you, it’s probably because they disapprove of you wearing a bathrobe to Sociology class. One day our teacher assigned us to go out and talk to someone about a topic we wouldn’t normally discuss with them. I had just gotten out of a long relationship and had recently wanted to try and flirt with girls again but didn’t quite know how. My therapist seemed like he was getting a little bored talking about flirting, so I decided to ask advice from the group of people who I talked to more than him: take-out restaurants.
My first call was picked up by a woman around or a little older than me. “Campus wings, can I take your order?”
“Yes hi, first I’d like the chicken fingers and the dipping sauce as well as the large order of spicy chicken wings. But also I was wondering if I could get some advice about this girl I’m interested in.”
And that’s when I told her about Jessica. Jessica who lived down the hall from my dorm room and walked and talked like she knew all her lines and we were all seven pages behind. Jessica with the long brown hair and a California suntan. I had managed to have 3 conversations with her in the laundry room and had since been convinced that we were perfect for each other.
But there were a few things I wasn’t sure about so I asked the Campus Wings lady, “Are you allowed to ask someone else out, 3 months after your last breakup? Also how can I be certain she’ll say yes? What if she has a boyfriend who is taller than me?”
There was a bit of silence where I imagined the Campus Wings lady was determining whether to take me seriously or not.
“Well maybe you should try and go to a party that she’s at and see how she behaves,” she suggested, “If she seems open to talking to people then she might not have a boyfriend and you could talk to her.”
“So Campus Wings is suggesting I follow Jessica—“
“Woah, woah woah!,” she interjected, “Campus Wings is no way legally allowed to tell you to stalk anybody. I’m just saying that maybe that’s a good plan.”
I thanked her for the advice, asked her how long the food would take and then hung up.
The next place I called was a pizzeria that I think was called Michael’s. The guy picked up on the second ring and I immediately went into my schpeel, “Hi I’d like a large pie, one half pepperoni one half peppers and an order of garlic knots with the dipping sauce but also I was wondering what you thought I should do about this girl who lives down the hall from me. We’ve talked a few times and had some casual flirting over laundry and the Afghanistan war and I’d like to see more of her but how should I go about this?”
There was a very long silence and then the man at Michael’s Pizza said, “Que?”
I elaborated, “Well we’re at college so are you allowed to go out on dates or is it strictly a ‘hook up until you decide you’re in a committed relationship’ type scene. Because I would feel more comfortable with the date scenario but I don’t know if that’s acceptable. What are your thoughts?”
The man at Michael’s Pizza put the phone down. There was static for a few seconds and then one of the cast members of The Sopranos picked up the phone, “Yeah dis is Micahel’s Pizza, whaddya want?”
I carefully explained my predicament, while also making sure that I got the dipping sauce with the garlic knots, and then asked him what he thought was acceptable in a college atmosphere for how I should approach Jessica.
Without missing a beat, the man said “Look buddy, we sell pizza’s here, awright? We don’t have any gurls or guys for you, if that’s what you’re into.” As if the act of calling a pizzeria and asking for advice clearly meant I was a homosexual.
“How could you tell he was gay?” someone would later ask him.
“Well he was calling up restaurants and asking for relationship advice, know what I mean? That’s what they do.”
I apologized for wasting his time, asked how long the pizza would take and hung up.
So far, I was getting a lot of good material for class but none whatsoever in terms of advice on what I should do about Jessica. Dejectedly, I started flipping through the menu folder when I found the rarest thing you can possibly hope to find in White Plains: a Jewish deli. Eagerly, I dialed the number and after about five rings an extremely weary voice picked up and said, “Hullo Abe’s Deli.”
Not only had I found the only Jewish deli in White Plains but I probably also found the only one on the east coast still run by a Jew! Excitedly I started to explain, “Hi I’d like pastrami on rye with gruyere, mustard, tomato, and salami but also I’d like your advice about this girl Jessica who lives down the hall from me. I just got out of this fairly long relationship but I’ve become very infatuated with Jessica and I don’t know how to approach her or even if I should, I mean how long should a person respectfully mourn the girl you were with before trying to flirt with another one?”
The man, who probably could only have been named Saul Abelmann, sighed wearily. As if he had been dealing with this problem his whole life. “My friend,” he said slowly and deliberately, “you can ask me about salami or mustard. The rest is up to you.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “that’s incredible! So you’re saying this is something I have to work through and figure out myself.”
“This is what I’m saying,” said Saul.
“Thank you. So how long will it take?”
“Forever. Rest of your life.”
“No I meant the sandwich.”
“That also. We don’t deliver” and then he hung up.