I was once banned from the bread shop. It was a few years ago so my conviction is now spent and I can talk about it without risking my reputation as an upstanding member of the Jewish community.
When I was a teenager I would go to pubs with friends, some of whom may not have been Jewish. One was banned from the local where we liked to play pool. He had drunk a fair bit more than he needed then started a fight with someone about something insignificant. I was in awe. Banned from a pub. Could I ever reach these heights of street cred? Not by nursing a pint of weak shandy for 3 hours I couldn’t. I considered switching my tipple of choice to something harder but wasn’t sure nursing a pint of cherry brandy was such a good idea either. Still, if you can’t be banned from a pub, at least be banned from a bakery.
This particular Friday morning I was, as always, in a hurry on account of participating in Jewish blood sports. I was the fox; the traffic warden was the hound. The idea is to park, run in for the bread and get back to the car before a ticket is slapped on the windscreen. This is especially challenging in Golders Green Road as the wardens have any number of places to hide so lulling shoppers into a false sense of security before pouncing. Any rational person would stump up for a ticket, but I resent paying the council 30p just so I can buy a couple of loaves of bread, and besides, I can’t resist an adrenalin pumping contest when the prize is to get back to the car and smile provocatively at the warden just as he thinks he’s earned his first commission of the day.
So there I was in the shop, hopping from one foot to the other, one eye on the vicinity of the car, the other on my place in the queue. When I say queue, of course I mean I was keeping an eye on the person I had randomly decided had pitched up after me, so as to ensure that they didn’t get served before me.
I placed my order: two medium challahs and two sesame bagels. Off the assistant trotted and returned with my bag. I quickly paid and dashed out to the car just as one of the corporation’s finest was making his way towards my motor.
As I arrived home I realised there was something wrong. The bag wasn’t bulky enough. Sure enough I was one loaf light. I was furious. It was Friday morning for heaven’s sake. Who buys only one loaf of challah on a Friday? Surely these dimwits would at least have been putting two loaves in every bag by muscle memory if, as in this case, they lacked the capacity to understand a simple instruction?
I stormed back to the shop and demanded to see the supervisor. “If it wasn’t for your stupid assistants chatting with each other instead of concentrating on the job in hand…” I huffed, “…you people are USELESS!”
As cool as you like the woman took my bag, checked the contents, reached into the till, extracted the appropriate sum and handed it to me with the following quiet admonishment: “It’s not acceptable to talk like that. Take your money. You’re not welcome here again”.
I was flabbergasted. I was talking in an unacceptable way? I am English. An Israeli was accusing me of being rude?
Mumbling something feeble along the lines of having no intention of ever setting foot in the shop again, I departed. The coup de grace was the plastic yellow envelope attached to my windscreen as I sloped back to the car with as much dignity as anyone could muster following defeat by a four year old in an arm-wrestle.
Still, I had the last laugh. They didn’t recognise me in the shop the following Friday morning when I went to buy my challah.