Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back again, with a meat-counter dialogue

http://israel-like-this-as-if.blogspot.com/2007/08/back-again-with-meat-counter-dialogue.html

After an unavoidable hiatus, posts to this blog are resuming. We'll begin with an item from our storehouse of overheard conversations. It is a discussion that took place not long ago at a supermarket meat counter.

They call the butcher Sergio. He is a handsome man in his 30s, with a prominent black mustache. From his appearance and the name Sergio, he could pass for an immigrant from Italy. One day he shouted something in Russian, and it turned out his name is really Sergei.

Here is a translation of some dialogue recorded while Sergio filled an order for a grouchy customer.

SERGIO (to his customer, a woman about his age): Steak today?

CUSTOMER: Yes. Only three slices.

SERGIO: Why?

CUSTOMER: Don't start that.

SERGIO: Start what?

CUSTOMER: Questions. You mustn't ask me why.

SERGIO: Why not?

CUSTOMER: Don't be like all the Israelis. There's no privacy here. In Europe a person couldn't ask such a question. Here everyone asks you personal questions.

SERGIO: Did I offend you?

CUSTOMER: Of course not. Everyone asks personal questions here.

SERGIO: So why are you angry at me?

CUSTOMER: I'm not angry. I don't like to see you learning the bad things.

SERGIO: There's a saying that the bad things are the fastest to be learned.

CUSTOMER: Believe me, in other countries they don't ask questions like this. They don't ask you why you want three slices of steak.

SERGIO: But we don't only ask questions. We give recommendations, we give advice.

CUSTOMER: I'm not saying it's so bad.

(By now Sergio has noticed that he has an audience, a few people waiting in line. He steps up his performance.)

SERGIO: This is a bad day. It started bad. And that's how it is. I've had two complaints already about the steak.

CUSTOMER: What's wrong with the steak? Did you taste it?

SERGIO: I'm a vegetarian.

(He says it deadpan, with a little shrug. No way to tell if he's serious.)

CUSTOMER: So what's wrong with the steak? What were the complaints about?

SERGIO: About me asking questions.

The grumpy customer cracks a smile. Chalk up another victory for Sergio at the meat counter.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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