Some of you may be familiar with that precious bagel store up Hope. On Monday morning, I watched an altercation there. It was the kind of back-and-forth that so distills our contemporary political shitpost that it made ‘politics’ as such seem, for a moment, not entirely divorced from lived reality.
One end of the counter served the usual fare (n.b., the lox bagel here is quite good). At the other end, the owner of the establishment posed with bagels for flash photos that will appear in the next issue of Rhode Island Monthly.
Despite the paparazzo’s incursion, business as usual continued. A woman sat down for a while without ordering. The owner approached the would-be customer and asked if she’d ordered anything. The woman, who was Black and patronizing a mostly white establishment in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood Mount Hope, said she hadn’t and asked if there was something wrong with her sitting there. Within moments, the owner’s defenses were up, and we were off to the races. “I was just asking. There’s no problem. Can I get you anything?” It was the owner’s defenses, her fear of appearing racist, that seemed to ignite the customer’s offense. Within moments she was on the phone: “You will not believe what just happened to me.” Moments later, I was also rendered speechless, as Speaker of the Rhode Island House (and famed Democratic Trump-supporter), Nicholas Mattiello arrived on the scene and uttered that classic idiom of machismo. “Is there a problem here?”
The scene escalated as quickly as it started, with Mattiello and the customer climbing into black SUVs and speeding away toward the statehouse.
To apologize for the disturbance, the owner began passing out complimentary cookies.