Kitchen Table Wisdom

How a gift I didn't want became a prized possession

| September/October 2001

I was walking home through the narrow streets of Greenwich Village when I heard someone say, in a heavy Italian accent, "Do you want a table?"

"Excuse me?" I replied.

The man repeated his question. Next to him, I could see a table. I looked around, momentarily disconcerted. He and I were the only ones on the street.

"It’s a good table," the man said. He was maybe in his 50s and looked to be a working man. This had once been a working-class Italian neighborhood, but now, in the late ’70s, it was occupied mostly by bohemian types. Only a few older Italians were left, vestiges of a bygone era.

"You’re selling it?" I inquired. This didn’t seem to be a great way to sell a table––standing on an empty street waiting for someone to come by.

"I give it to you," the man said. And I saw, in the way he laid his hand on the table as he addressed me, that he cared for it. I looked at him closely. He seemed a good man. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

"You don’t want it?" I asked. I didn’t want it, either––I had a table already––but I didn’t want to turn him down too abruptly.

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