Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Trials of Putting Bread on the Table

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

For as long as I can remember, my contribution to the household has been to put bread on the table. Not that I'm much of a baker, mind you. In our division of labor, my chore is to go to the bakery for bread every day. In the past, this was never much of a burden, since the bakery was right next door to our building.

Then one day the bakery door was locked when I walked up. Closed for remodeling. And when the remodeling was done, the bakery had become a store that manufactured and sold Venetian blinds.

The daily bread run was now a real hoof to another bakery some distance way. But this summer a little kiosk opened on our corner, where a pleasant woman in a snow-white cardigan sold bread that was delivered early each day directly from a big commercial bakery.

Now when we needed fresh bread, I just nipped down to the corner to see Lucy. Before long she knew just what I liked. As soon as she saw me coming around the corner, she would pull out my favorite breads and buns and have them waiting.

I got the impression that Lucy had entered the retail trade out of necessity, not out of choice. One day I engaged her in conversation and found out that I had been right: Lyudmila Vladimirovna had formerly worked as a communications engineer. The company she had worked for went bankrupt and let the entire staff go.

Then one day, as I walked up to the kiosk looking forward to another pleasant encounter with Lucy, I saw instead a corpulent, coarse woman in a shabby cardigan. When I asked if she had any of my favorite crescent rolls, she brusquely replied: "Why don't you open your eyes and take a look at what's in the window." I put on my glasses, but I didn't see any crescent rolls. "I don't see them," I said.

"That means that they didn't deliver any today," she said in a mocking, schoolmarmy tone.

"No need to be nasty," I said as I walked away. I was so disheartened by Lucy's absence and so irritated by the new woman's rudeness that I decided to make her pay. But how? Then it came to me.

Normally I made sure to have a tenner in my pocket when I went to buy bread. This time I gathered up all of the change I could find, put it in an empty plastic film canister and set off for the kiosk.

I didn't bother to say please, and I didn't lean toward the window to make myself heard. "Give me a loaf of white bread," I barked, and dumped all my change on the little tray sitting on the counter.

The saleswoman stared. Then she began silently to count the coins. Having determined that the amount was correct, she shot out angrily: "What did you do, stand outside the church gate with your hand out and bring me your take for the day?"

But I wasn't listening. I took my loaf, turned the corner and headed for home. I repeated this little number a couple more times. But when I approached the kiosk one last time, the saleswoman saw me coming. She closed up shop and hung a sign in the window: "On Break." And I had to walk half way across town for my bread.