Gigi Cafe, Broadway and 72nd-ish
“Have a nice breakfast!”
Every weekday morning, an aproned guy with a lilting accent that sounds right for the name of this café stands on the sidewalk and heartily encourages passersby to treat themselves to a vast collection of cut-up muffins. So of course they do. Some people take one piece. Others take maybe two. But then there are others who feel this is their opportunity to stock up, and grab fistsful more than enough to fashion into at least one entire patchworked Frakenmuffin.
This always dismays me, because (1) I do not trust my fellow New Yorkers and/or non-fellow turistas to have washed their hands after having come off of public transportation where they are sure to have gripped a pole slathered with enough DNA to fill not just a double helix but a quadruple as well; (B) this speaks to a certain sort of gluttony that forces my eyes to seek out the gelatinous guts and mashed potato thighs of those who manhandle the muffins (usually rooting through them to pick out a certain piece) and greedily shove them into their maws like they haven’t eaten since the oldies they should be sweatin’ to were originally recorded; and (iii) I just know these opportunistic cheapskates will come to rely on the free muffin mishmash and thus never set foot inside the actual café or spend money there.
I do admit there is a certain appeal to getting a little something for free. I must also confess that about a year ago, when I was at Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen in Philadelphia with my stunning friend Judy, I did take a peanut butter cookie chunk from a big plate atop the cake case on my way out. And then, with Judy’s encouragement to eat one for her (she won’t eat cookies herself, because she is stunningly insane), I took another. (The chunk I ate for myself was tastier. The thrill is gone after the first sample.) I did not think this was necessarily a bad thing, though, because I had just spent a bit of money on kasha varnishkas and “handcut” fries (hello, healthy!).
Similar to this is the free inidividually-wrapped candies at my hair salon. I must confess (yet again) that I have been known to eat two candies while waiting for my appointment and, okay, to sneak a few into the zippered compartment of my purse for the train ride home (it’s a long way from Hoboken to the Upper West Side) enough, perhaps, yes, to melt in a double-boiler and then mold into one regular-size candy bar. Then, again, I feel I have earned it, given the price of the haircut. (And no, I have never actually melted/molded.)
So what is the point? There isn’t one, really. I suppose I am as guilty as the muffin-mouths, in some way. But at least when I do it I am availing myself of the other services where the “freebies” are being offered. Thus, I feel entitled. And I wash my hands. And work out, a lot, so I can fend off gelatinousness and mashed potatosity.
What I really want to know is this: How many pieces do you think is appropriate to take from a display like this? At what point does a person cross over from being a polite, pinky-raised sampler into being a greedy, ham-fisted bastard? I invite your comments.