Yesterday, at lunch, a man in Milano Market yelled at me unreasonably. He was getting soup; I was trying to maneuver around him to look at the soup selection and weigh it against the sandwiches. I ended up saying "excuse me" three times in my efforts to get by him. He stopped and looked at me and said, "Jesus Christ, have some patience! Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me. Just wait!" I was taken aback. I'm not used to being reprimanded publicly. I sputtered something like, "thank you for your patience, sir." It was all I could do. Throughout the rest of the afternoon I thought of things I could have said - not witty or clever things, but things that would have dripped with sarcasm and malice. Like: "Ok, buddy, don't spill your soup," or "Sorry we can't all live on your soup time, friend." But none of these would have been funny or stinging. (Or would change the fact that the whole thing almost certainly affected me much more than it did him.) The rest of the day this made me kind of sad and definitely angry. I said 'excuse me'! And I meant it! Who yells at someone for well-intentioned politeness?
On my way out of the market, in an effort to restore some karmic balance to the dynamics of the white-collar lunch hour, I tried to be friendly to the cashier. "Hi, ha yew?" I said in my best Virginia drawl, a grin clamped over my mouth. She didn't reply. I said again, "hi, ha yew?" But she didn't reply, or make eye contact, during the entire transaction, speaking in uninterrupted spanish to her colleague across the way.
I don't think this happens in places that are not New York.