There’s this new bagel place near my house. When I first saw it I was excited and skeptical. Excited because there are few things I love more than a good bagel. Skeptical because while I do not buy the premise that New York is the greatest city in the world, when it comes to bagels- they are. There was a bagel store right next to my subway stop, and those doughy circles of goodness fueled my decade in the city. In the six years I’ve been gone I have yet to find anything that even gets close to that bagel store right next to my subway stop. There was a deli in Atlanta that tried, but ultimately fell short.
So a couple of weeks ago I gave this place a try. To my surprise…it was good! The bagels were soft in the middle, with a little crunch on the outside. I ate them with cream cheese, thinly sliced tomatoes, and lox. I closed my eyes and for a brief moment I was back in Brooklyn on the corner of Humboldt and Withers. This was amazing discovery. This was a find. Greenville and I were going to make it together after all!
My nephew was baptized over the weekend, and my sisters came into town. Yesterday morning I went over to my parent’s house for breakfast, and on the way there I decided to stop by the new place and pick up some bagels. Since they were so good the first time, I figured I’d see how they were for round number two.
I got to the store around 10am. They appeared to have had a busy morning. There were some people scattered at the various tables, and they had sold out of lots of flavors. “Good for them,” I thought to myself, as I surveyed the remaining choices.
A guy came out of the back to take my order. I had seen him there the first time and I’m pretty sure he’s the owner. He was nice and friendly and gregarious, but the shirt he had on weirded me out. It said “Free Speech is More Important Than Your Feelings.” With an American flag right in the middle.
I then looked to the side of the counter, and there was a sign that said “Complaint Department, Take a Number.” And the number was attached to the pin of a toy hand grenade!
The guy behind the counter smiled at me, oblivious to the messaging on his shirt. I ordered a plain, a poppyseed, and a cinnamon raisin, and made sure not to complain.
Is that really what the founding fathers meant when they made free speech one of the bedrocks of our democracy? The right to be an asshole and offend people. And what sort of feelings was this guy looking to hurt? It’s a fucking bagel store. Is he defending his right to throw a slur at me if I ask for the wrong flavored cream cheese? Is he going to call me a moron if I order a blueberry bagel? Is that boomer gonna call me a millennial if I try to pay for a $2 bagel with my debit card? Is he trying to be the bagel shop of the alt-right? The go-to breakfast spot for users of Reddit and 8-chan? It’s 10am on a Wednesday! Why are you trying to offend anyone?
And to make it worse, his shirt and his grenade are not logically cohesive. If he screws up my order, and I use my free speech to complain about it, he’s threatening to blow my body to smithereens. So what is it snowflake? Are you for free speech or are you for the violent death of anyone who tries to speak up against you?
I paid for my bagels and headed to my parents. The damn things were good. Again. Which means I’ll be going there. Again.
I just hope to God next time he isn’t wearing a MAGA hat. That would really test my love of bagels. Haven’t I been tested enough?