Predictable and probable mom of two approaches the deli counter with high pitch confidence.
“Hiiiiiiii yes, I’m good, how are you? Good, good, good we’re all good.
“Ok let’s see here, it’s a Tuesday… so I’m gonna need one pound of the regular turkey.”
A bit of a snooze fest request, but I’m up for the challenge. To save time I don’t even bother to explain that we don’t actually carry a flavor of turkey called “regular”. By now it’s common knowledge that when a customer desires plain, boring, suburban, regular or white turkey breast, they are referring to either the Oven Roasted or the Golden Brown. Indeed, with each, the taste is quite regular, proving to be a valuable selling point, particularly for the probable moms.
With a smug nod of the head, I rub my nylon palms together and quickly throw myself an internal pep rally, inviting memories of both high school friends and foes. Cue the music. Here we go. Watch this, I’ll match her self-assured poise.
Side stepping into position, I glide gracefully to her left, my right, with the poetic ease of the balanced harmony, found only in the delicate interplay of flesh and meat. Lowering my body in alignment with the glass of the case, I gently slide open the door, ALL the way. I extend my arm as my mind reverts back to the flexible nostalgia of the sit and reach.
In perfect symmetrical synchronization, my hand makes the first move. Not wanting to startle the turkey, I must ease in with a soft initial touch to the cool skin of the slice, wrapping each finger around the measurable rosettes of classical Greek proportions.
*must locate the inner pound within. *
Tenderly I grab hold and pull the finely tuned wad of meat, drawing it closer to the comfort and warm embrace of the stainless scale. In doing so I let the excess of the unwanted turkey remnants fall effortlessly in between my fingers, while the moldable rest becomes one. My mind, my body, my arm, my hand, all senses working in perfect unison. Breathing in, breathing out. Sniffing and tasting the aroma, grabbing and grappling, in time… just let it go. Mother Briggs was correct back in 2009 when she whispered softly into my sensitive ear “Della, you are an intuitive feeler my dear”
In one sweeping rhythmic motion of elegance, I toss that turkey clump over my head like a 72 pt font exclamation point ! sticking it perfectly center stage on the scale. Think figure skating, meets basketball meets the 2016 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team.
BOOM. Swoosh. Landed it. One pound. Exact. Decimal ON POINT. A 1.00 flawless performance.
TBH, not surprising.
Her response however, debatable in its excessive flattery.
Pardon my French, but HOLY SHIT!
Eyes wide, her jaw an elongated drop.
WOW you are good! So good!? I mean you are REALLY really good. Seriously eerily good. Eerily really good. I mean you are almost too good. Like this is kind of crazy am I right?! Tell me please WHO ARE YOU?!
She looks behind her, seeking a crowd to share in her uncontainable enthusiasm (unfortunately to no one on this oddly slow double stamp Tuesday). Desperate to spread the word she decides to facetime a friend, quickly changing her mind. Think bigger, be bolder.
Instead she goes live on the gram. With 55 online viewers plus me, she begins to wail, waving her arms above her head possessed in charismatic admiration. While speaking Pentecostal praises in updated emojis and tongues she abruptly falls to the ground, uncontrollably bawling, tears of joy she assures. Next thing you know, Beyoncé appears, prolonging this unwanted scene with repetitive chants of bow down bitch(es).
Trembling in awe, former woman of poise, wants answers.
“Where did you come from?! Are you even real? I know this is odd, but may I ask to touch your XS powered free nylon right hand?”
I allow it, but just this once before she proceeds with her pleading question of finality.
“Just answer me this. HONESTLY, HAS. THIS. EVER. HAPPENED. BEFORE?!” Or Did I just witness the most unbelievable act in all of Deli history, in line with no one else??
HA. I manage a smirk.
Has this ever happened before?…please….let me ponder this cute and amusing ignorance for 5 whole slices of a second as we pause for station identification.
I’m done bull shitting, I’m done with the humble brags. I’m done being honored and hashtag blessed to be accepted and loved and validated. I’m here to be real, bleeding rare raw. To say it like it is. It’s 2017 and damn it I am on fire.
I sit her down, well rather I pick her up off the ground, straddling the counter now face to face….
“Ma’am I do this for a living..
She interrupts. What’s that you ask?
OH my ASL. Sure.
I’m a 29-year-old female located in a windowless basement surveilled by the parental department of burban love. Furthermore, I hold 2 impractical degrees and have been a practicing deli artist for over a year now. Perfection is not an option, nor is it a random act of improbable chance. It’s a corporate commandment. A mental and physical demand of being.
I mean honestly, do you think I just woke up one day and thought “hey IDEA! I could make a quick literal one dollar an hour without tips by slicing meat” because I was bored? Did I choose this lifestyle because I thought it would be easy? NO! By no means! This is not merely a job for the high schoolers and the degenerates of society. This is Art. This is Life. A calling if you will.
For one must endure intense deli training before even being allowed on the front line at the counter. This ten-step-hands-on program is designed to cultivate like-minded and progressive emotional acrobatic feelers while implementing a science of winning. Sadly, not everyone makes it. Like most competitive schools of prestige, only the strongest and fittest survive, weeding out the feeble in spirit and weak in the 1-5 lb range of strength. For many, submergence in the excessive blind tastings of grab bag technology, eventually begin to wear down on the physiology and psychology of the non-gifted. But more on this later.
“If we never meat again Della, hold fast to my words of encouragement, for I know that your talent will take you to great weights and heights in this upcoming year.”
She then offers to write me a letter of recommendation, waive my application fee and strongly encourages me to sign up for the local 4H talent show.
*Here’s to hoping the Food Network launches the Deli Wars, my ego dies down a slice or two and my paycheck increases significantly. If anyone out there is reading this and knows where I can use this supernatural talent of sensing incremental quarter pounds of meat on demand with immaculate precision and acute accuracy outside of the deli, please DM or PM me at your convenience. Happy New Year!