D.L. Stewart: Battling for bagels, Seinfeld-style

It’s like a scene from a sit-com. I’m at the Dayton area’s newest bagel shop ordering take-out. Tuna sandwich for my wife, pastrami on rye for me, a bowl of matzo ball soup to share. As the young man behind the counter prepares the sandwich, I mention that I also want to order half a dozen bagels to take home.

“Is the matzo ball soup here good?” the customer behind me asks as we wait in line. He’s approximately my age, wearing a blue T-shirt with the word ITALIA in white lettering on the front.

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“I don’t know,” I admit. “This is my first time here. I’m hoping it is, because there’s not a lot of great delis around here.”

"Yeah," he agrees, "I'm from New York." Implicit in his comment is that New Yorkers are uniquely qualified to recognize good matzo ball soup when they slurp it.

While the young man spreads mustard on my rye, another server appears behind the counter and the blue-shirt guy places his order, which includes half a dozen plain bagels. I glance at the bagel shelf and notice that there appear to be just eight plain ones left. That’s fine, though, because I only want two.

But then another server appears to help the customer behind the blue shirt guy. She orders the last two plain bagels.

“Oh, no,” I shout, probably a lot louder than I should have. “I wanted plain bagels.”

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"Sorry, sir," the server says, "those are the last two."

“But, I was in line ahead of her. And I was in line ahead of him, too,” I exclaim, pointing to the blue shirt guy.

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“But that’s not fair,” I blurt.

And that’s when the absurdity hits me. With only slight variations, I’m re-enacting the classic Seinfeld episode in which Jerry tries to buy rye bread, only to have an older woman claim the last loaf. He tries to talk her into selling it to him, but she refuses and leaves the store. So he chases her down the street and wrestles it away from her, shouting the immortal line: “Gimme the bread, you old bag.”

Fortunately, my scene doesn't go that far. The blue-shirt guy tells the cashier to take two of the bagels off his order and let me have them. Unfortunately, I never learned his name. But if you happen to know a New Yorker who owns a blue shirt with the word ITALIA on it and likes plain bagels, please thank him for me.

Because I probably would have suffered severe injuries trying to wrestle the bagels away from that woman.

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