The Indian grocery store and the service dog

The title of this post sounds like a terrible Neil Young song. But I digress. My new obsession is a huge Indian grocery store in Jackson Heights, Patel Brothers. The place is huge and has every kind of mutant vegetable known to man. Everything has a weird name and as soon as you see it you want it: it’s like the IKEA of fruit. Yesterday I swang in for some¬†Asafoetida powder and mung beans. I mention this detail to confirm that I KNOW I am a giant douchebag, but don’t care.

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On my way out, I saw a great fight between the Indian security guard and two New York weirdos. The couple were in their mid-50s, and dressed head-to-toe in fur coats, sequined jeans and sequined sweaters. Amid the quiet Bangladeshi housewives, they stood out like an airhorn. The lady was a classic “party girl left out in the rain”. The fundamentals of beauty were still in her face, but rusted over with three decades of cigarettes and drugs and vodka. The dude looked like Andy Warhol’s cousin: bowl-cut wig, yellow-tinted aviator glasses, and the permanently pursed lips of plastic surgery patients from the 1980s.¬† In their shopping cart was a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag with a small Yorkshire Terrier inside. The security guard kept yelling “no dogs”. The woman yelled back in the thickest Queens accent you’ve ever heard: “It’s a service doooaaawg. You hiyaaaave to let me in. It’s the looooooooowah.” Andy Warhol’s cousin said nothing with his mouth, and everything with his eyes.

The guard wouldn’t hear it. So the lady pulled some sort of official card from her purse to justify the dog. I imagine it said, “yeah, I know this person is nuts, but I’m a busy doctor and I had bunch of patients waiting and she insisted she needs a dog at all times or she’ll fall apart. So can you just look the other way?”. To be clear: this woman was not blind or visibly disabled in any way. She just feels better having a Yorkshire Terrier around. You know who else that applies to? Fucking EVERYONE. Have you ever played with a Yorkshire Terrier? They’re a delight.

There is an epidemic of this kind of thing in the country today. People prescribe themselves service dogs all the time. What was her problem? I don’t know. Probably something vague like anxiety or agoraphobia, and this Yorkshire Terrier fixes it. I feel any problem a Yorkshire Terrier can fix may, well… not actually be a problem. But I didn’t. The argument was heating up. The security guard kept refusing, and the lady responded with her trump card: “do you want me to call the government?” Now, I support a social safety net. But if someone from “the government” is sitting by a phone at 5pm on a Sunday, waiting for calls from aging disco queens and their grocery store-embargoed terriers… I think that’s bureaucracy we can trim.

But this grocery store serves immigrants of all levels of legality, so “government” was the magic word. One mention of that, and it was all over. The guard relented instantly. The disco queens were in and looking for lentils. As they walked away, the Indian guard and a store manager began a very serious conversation in (I’m guessing) Urdu, with sprinklings of English. It sounded something like “urdu urdu urdu service dog urdu urdu urdu Americans with Disabilities Act urdu urdu urdu more trouble than it’s fucking worth urdu urdu urdu”.

After hating these weirdos for a good two minutes, I began to feel embarrassed. It’s a dog, for Pete’s sake. What’s the problem with having him in the store? It can’t be a hygiene issue. They let children in, and they are oozing sacks of disease who touch everything. Plus, everything in the store is from India, home to the world’s finest diarrhea. If you’re not washing everything you buy there, your issue isn’t dogs. It’s that you’re dumber than a dog.

This is an odd country. In New York, I saw an argument about whether taking a dog in a grocery store was unsafe. In Arkansas, I could shop for fruit with a loaded Magnum .44 in my hand. I feel that’s a greater health hazard. I should probably get more worked up about that, not the honesty and vulnerability of people with the courage to say “I’m sick and this dog is my medicine”.

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