The Senses: Humor


Scene: Muslim bodega, 11 p.m.

The guy in line in front of me had bought a six-pack of Budweiser, so as I plunked my carton of Vanilla Swiss Almond on the counter, I asked the cashier if he wanted to see i.d.

He smiled in bewilderment. “For ice-a cream?”

I chuckled. He chuckled. He thought it about it for a minute.

“Maybe some day,” he mused, as he gave me my change, bagged my purchase, and sent me on my way.

The Senses: Touch — or, A Perv Moment


When I got on the Q train, right away I noticed an attractive woman seated in one of those perpendicular benches by the window. I ended up sitting near her, in one of the seats built along the side wall of the train, so she was looking right at me, in profile. I had gotten just a glimpse of her when I came in and had this weird desire to look at her again, but I couldn’t do it without being obvious. So I pulled out something and began reading. Of course, I was intensely conscious of her presence, whether or not she was looking at me, or what I was reading. (It was the latest issue of The Washington Spectator.) I found it really hard to concentrate because I became obsessed with this mystery person. What did she look like? Was she pretty? Did she wear glasses? What color was her hair? And did she even notice I existed?

Anyway, after going over the Manhattan Bridge, we arrived at Canal Street, and she got off, without a second glance at me. As she exited, I finally got to eyeball her: pretty, dark hair, glasses. But, just to make sure she had really been there, I impulsively reached out my hand to her seat and touched it.

It was still warm.

The Senses: Smell


I wandered through the video store, passing the only other customers, two firefighters from the station around the corner. They were both sporting those heavy insulated pants, held up by suspenders. As I walked by, firefighter #1 asked #2, “Hey, what’s Sin City about?”

FF#2: “Oh, we saw that already. Me and Joe’s crew saw that back at the house last week. It was good.”

FF#1: “Oh, okay.”

I passed on by, sneering at #2’s appraisal of the film, and after a short while, found the movie I’d been looking for.

When I arrived at the counter to pay, the store employee, a stocky bottle-blonde in her early 30s, wasn’t there. She was back with the firemen, helping them find a flick. As they worked their way back to the counter, she was explaining that, believe it or not, she wasn’t Italian, but actually “Slovakian.”

New York’s Bravest settled in next to me at the counter, and the clerk offered them her recommendation, Jarhead, explaining that though it wasn’t technically a “war movie,” it was close enough.

[It struck me as weird and yet somehow completely appropriate that New York City firefighters, with probably one of the world’s most stressful, adrenaline-laded jobs, had a taste for war movies. I could just see them lounging around the firehouse, jazzing to the fear and violence, waiting for that bell to ring, summoning them to the next three-alarmer.]

Firefighter #1 asked her if she’d seen Jarhead, and she demurred: “Oh no, I haven’t seen any of ’em. I hate movies.”

FF#1: “You work at a video store and you don’t like to watch movies? Do you like to go to the movies? You like ’em then?”

Bottle-blonde: “No, I’m a terrible date! I either fall asleep or I walk out.”

As I listened to firefighter #1 striking out, I sniffed the air. I thought I smelled something. It smelled like something was burning!

And then I realized: the firefighters’ clothes — probably especially those rubber pants — stank of smoke.