Just before I hit the bricks, I hit the deli around the corner for a newspaper.
A thirtysomething Latina stands in front of me on line. She’s lucky if she’s five feet tall—and damned near as wide. She’s also bundled up in a brown downcoat, sausage-tight jeans and a floppy beige hat that’s straight out of the old Fat Albert cartoons.
When she reaches into her purse to pay for her coffee and ham-egg-and-cheese sandwich, I’m struck by her fingernails. They’re not only three inches long, they’re an inch or two across.
What’s more, they’ve been painted an inky black that’s more Goth than ghetto. No glitter-sprinkled swirl or filigrees here, homeboy. Think cockroach shells.
She takes her breakfast and pocketbook, and begins to walk out. White-white me, I’m already holding my two quarters for today’s Daily News. I hand them to the cashier and head for the door.
The woman is nearly through the doorway, and I’m right behind her. Suddenly, she halts and holds the door open with her elbow. For me, I think, so it won’t slam in my face.
“Thanks,” I say. But as I try to grab the door from her—the ding-a-ling bells at the top of the door sounding off over and over—she gives me a serious stink-eye.
I look at her and shrug.
Then she looks down at her big, witchy fingernails. She wasn’t holding the door for me; the big glass thing just swung back too fast and she wants to make sure it didn’t scratch, clip or bend the precious press-ons. For half a second, I think she’s going to count them from one to ten just to be sure.
But she just splays them out in front of her, the bag o’ coffee and sandwich and the pocketbook both swinging from her arm, more ding-a-linging from above, and stares at them. Not one imperfection.
I open my mouth to say, “Excuse me,” and she bolts out before I get a word out. I have to lunge forward to catch the door. So I do.
And once I hit the sidewalk, she goes her way and I go mine.
Tim Coleman covers the walk-to-work beat in Foot It.